Ajjan hurls gem as D-East beats D-West

DOWNINGTOWN — Downingtown East needed a win in the worst way after losing a heartbreaker to Coatesville last Friday.

The Cougars went with their ace on the mound, Kyle Ajjan, to get the job done.

Ajjan did not disappoint as he threw a five hitter and knocked in two runs, striking out Kenny Jarema with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh to preserve a very hard fought, 3-2, Ches-Mont League win for the Cougars Monday afternoon at Downingtown West High School.

“We needed a win after last week and to beat West, our crosstown rivals is good, especially on their home field,’ Ajjan said. “It was a tough game and we came out on top and hopefully this will get us going.’

East (5-4 league, 5-4 overall) stranded runners in the first four innings off hard luck starter Doug Conrad. Conrad struck out seven East batters and allowed just five hits for the Whippets (5-2 league, 5-2 overall) but four Downingtown West errors spoiled the effort.

Downingtown East finally broke through in the top of the fifth against the Whippets. Conrad started the inning by hitting Ron Pellegrino, but came right back to strike out Andrew Bader looking with a nice curve ball.

Jesse Alba then hit a ball near second base that was not fielded cleanly and it put two East runners on with just one out. Conrad looked like he may get out of the jam when he got Mike Rodriguez to pop out for the second out. But, Ajjan roped an RBI single to center field to make it a 1-0 game.

After another West error to load the bases, Conrad hit Ryan Rumer with a pitch and it was a 2-0 game.

“You have to make the plays in the field and Doug pitched a real good game,’ Downingtown West coach Dave Oleszek said. “We let them have two runs and then they came back and gave us some runs. But, to win games in the Ches-Mont you have to field the ball cleanly and we did not do that.’

With Ajjan sailing along with a one-hitter going to the bottom of the sixth inning, it looked like the Cougars were home free. But they weren’t, through no fault of their senior pitcher.

After getting Jason Borosky and Conrad out to begin the inning, the Cougars defense let down. Jarema hit a ball to center for a single that bounded past the fielder and Jarema ended up at second base with one out.

Toby Welk then hit a roller to short and beat out a low throw to put two runners on with two outs. Josh Marcelli hit a grounder to second that was mishandled, scoring Jarema and making it a 2-1 game.

But the throw to first went past Rumer, sending pinch runner Ron Giordoni flying home from second base to tie the game at 2-2 after six innings.

“We keep shooting ourselves in the foot,’ Downingtown East coach Pete Susi said. “We left too many men on the first four innings and then we start butchering plays in the field. Kyle pitched a great game for us and he is our leader. The other kids look up to him and want to do well for him. He is our heart and soul.’

With the game tied at 2-2 going into the seventh and Conrad and Ajjan both pitching well, it looked like extra innings were in the forecast. But once again the West defense let Conrad down. Jesse Alba led off the seventh with a single to center that bounded past the center fielder and the fleet Alba ended up on third base with no one out.

Conrad then got Mike Rodriguez to pop out to third base for the first out. Ajjan figured he might as well win his own game and he lofted a sacrifice fly to left field that sent Alba home with a 3-2 advantage going to the bottom of the seventh.

The Whippets were not through. West had won two games earlier in the season in their last at-bats and it looked like it may happen again.

A.J. Bell singled to start the inning and then Colin Dombelsky laid down a nice bunt that Ajjan fielded, but no one was covering first base, putting two men on with no one out. Eric Small then sacrificed both runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.

The top of the order came up but Ajjan, after walking Jason Borosky to load the bases with one out and the Whippets bench roaring, struck Conrad out looking and Jarema swinging on a 3-2 pitch and the Cougars roared onto the field to congratulate their pitcher.

“When errors happen it is tough but you have to buckle down and throw strikes,’ Ajjan said. “I have been playing with these kids for years and they have my back. We won the league last year but that does not mean anything this season. It is up to us seniors to lead the younger guys and show them what it takes to win in this league.’

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