Avon Grove keeps things tight in National

WEST GROVE– For the fourth year in a row, the softball season will go into its final games without a champion being decided in the Ches-Mont National division, with West Chester East and Avon Grove still in the loss column.

Avon Grove did its part on Wednesday afternoon, sneaking past Downingtown West 2-0 being a three-hit shutout from ace Maggie Balint. The Vikings were 3-2 winners in extra innings over Coatesville, and hold a half-game lead over the Red Devils in the standings, but just as important, they also hold the tie-breaker having won head-to-head meetings on consecutive days early in the season.

“It really just speaks to how good a league this is,’ said Avon Grove coach Julie Hatfield. “There’s an outside chance eight teams could make the districts from this league, so to be at the top of that list means we are going to be well-prepared for postseason play.’

The Red Devils are 14-3 with the game in hand coming into play on Friday against Bishop Shanahan before closing the season against West Chester Rustin on Monday. The Vikings will finish at home versus Henderson.

Avon Grove’s runs came in back-to-back innings — the second and third.

With one out in the second, Rachel Butler took a big cut, with a small result — a little trickler that didn’t even reach the circle. The throw sailed into right field. Butler chugged into third when the ball went down the left-field line. Butler jogged home to put the Red Devils on top.

To be honest, when I made my turn around second, I wasn’t expecting to be waved to third,’ said Butler. “So I was really surprised to see the signal to go home. I was just happy to get the run. Getting a run early on in the game was great for us.’

The Red Devils manufactured a run in the second. Courtney Gall got things started, reaching on a fielder’s choice and moving up on a fielder’s choice to Balint. Alyssa Herion was up next, and golfed a low pitch for a single up the middle to score Gall.

“I was looking for a ball low and in,’ said Herion. “Not sure how inside it was, but it was definitely low, and I went down for it and drove it the best I could. I knew if we got another run there, chances were we were going to win with the way Maggie was pitching, so I just went in with the mindset that I would do whatever it took to get a run in.’

Those two innings were a microcosm of West’s season, according to coach Joey Germani.

“When we get beat, more often than not, it’s because we beat ourselves,’ said Germani. “Even in the third, we made some mental errors that led to that run, so I’m not sure I’d consider either an earned run. We just made too many errors. That was also the first time all year we’ve been shutout, but it came against a pitcher like that, and she was really on today. But we’re still in a good position for districts, and hopefully we’ll get another shot. Fortunately, we’ve had the depth to weather some injuries, and we’ll be getting a couple of them back.’

Balint was in top form, scattering three hits in seven innings. She did not allow a run, lowering her season ERA to a microscopic 0.25. She struck out 16, and did not walk a hitter.

“Once we hit the fifth inning, I knew Maggie had totally found her rhythm and no one was going to get to her,’ said her catcher Herion. “Maggie was really throwing well. Everything she was throwing was working just the way she wanted. The strikeouts were going to come.’

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