Coatesville manager Hal Ziegler wins 300th game as Red Raiders beat D-East in thriller

UWCHLAN — “Boy they sure don’t come easy.’

That was the quote of Coatesville baseball coach Hal Ziegler after his Red Raiders came back from a one run deficit in the top of the seventh to score four runs to take a bizarre 7-5 Ches-Mont League game over host Downingtown East.

The win was the 300th in the storied career of Ziegler and the game had as many twists and turns as the coach could see in his 23 years at the helm of the Red Raiders (2-5, Ches-Mont, 2-5 overall). Coatesville scored four runs in the top of the seventh inning after it appeared the game was over.

The big hit came when Matt Stolzer roped an Andrew Russell fastball to deep right field, clearing the bases and giving the Red Raiders a 7-4 lead.

“The pitch was a fastball right down the middle and I came up clutch today,’ Stolzer said. “We wanted to win 300 for Zig and we need to win as many games right now as we can so today was a good day.’

The decisive seventh inning started with Russell, who pitched real well in relief for the Cougars (4-4, 4-4). Russell walked lead off batter Cole Chesnet then Jared Urban then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put a man on second with one out and the Red Raiders down 4-3.

Things looked bleak for Coatesville after Russell got Bobby Kuehn to ground out to second base.

With two outs an a man on third, Russell hit Jorge Rodriguez with the first pitch of the at bat. Then, Stephon Hines walked to load the bases with the groans from the Downingtown East bench growing louder.

Up came Vic Gabriel. On the first pitch, he lofted a big pop up in foul ground off first base with what looked like the game ender.

But the ball plopped out of the glove of first baseman Micahel Martinez and Coatesville had new life. Gabriel worked a walk, scoring Chesnet to tie the game at 4-4.

Up came Stolzer, who rocketed a fastball to clear the bases and a give Coatesville a 7-4 lead.

“When I hit the ball I was just thinking please drop the ball and give me another chance and it came through,’ Gabriel said. “And to win the 300th game for Zig. He is a legend to us. He is a mentor and a friend and we all respect him.’

Downingtown East scored a run in the bottom of the seventh when Chase Fike ripped an RBI single to score Nick Amicon, who led off the inning with a double.

But Kuehn got Andrew Bader to ground out and end the game, which gave Coatesville and Ziegler a much-needed win.

Coatesville had jumped out to a 3-0 lead and saw Downingtown East battle back to make it 4-3 in favor of the Cougars, but the Red Raiders must have had fate on their side as a dropped pop-up led to four runs and a win, the 300th, of a stellar career for their leader.

“This is just another win and a win we needed,’ Ziegler said. “And to look back I think of all the kids and all the players I have had. It keeps me young. And Coatesville takes a bad rap about a lot of things but I’ll tell you, I have had great kids in my time at Coatesville and I would not trade them for anybody.

“But, I would trade those 300 wins for a state championship. That is something that is driving me.’

Losing coach Pete Susi talked to his team for a long time after the game and he offered some thoughts on the heartbreaking loss.

“The game should have been over on the pop-up but we have a ninth grader there and he has been playing great for us,’ Susi said. “That play did not lose us this game. But, we cannot keep spotting teams runs. Today we were behind 3-0 because we could not throw strikes and we kicked the ball around. We have to start better and get ready for Monday against West.’

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