Avon Grove batters Downingtown West

WEST GROVE — During the regular season, 11th-seeded Downingtown West and No. 6 Avon Grove split their two games by the same score (2-0) with the teams combing for a mere 11 hits in total.

With Maggie Balint pitching her best down the stretch for Avon Grove, and the West tag team of Emily Williams and Marissa Seese equally effective late in the season, you would guess that hits and runs would be scarce once again when the teams squared off for a third time in round two of the District 1 Class AAAA softball playoffs Wednesday.

You would have guessed wrong. Avon Grove pounded out 16 hits in an 8-3 victory on its home field.

“We only scored a total of two runs against them all year,’ said Alyssa Herion (3-for-4, HR, 3 RBIs). “But today, everyone hit. It wasn’t just me. It wasn’t just Maggie or Courtney (Coppack) or Rachel (Butler) or any one person. Everyone in the lineup was hitting today. It was great to see.’

The Red Devils will gear up to meet No. 2 North Penn in Friday’s quarterfinals. The game is a rematch of last year’s district final, won by Avon Grove, 4-2. The Knights stand in the way of a successful defense for Avon Grove.

“Getting as far as we did last year really helps a lot,’ said Herion. “We all know what it takes to win at this level, and the nerves aren’t there as much. We’re all looking forward to the challenge of facing North Penn again.’

All nine slots of the order had at least one base hit with multi-hit games from Herion, Balint (3-for-4, three runs scored), Coppack (3-for-4, two runs scored) and Logan Needham (2-for-4).

“Coming into the game today, I was concerned,’ said Avon Grove coach Julie Hatfield. “We hadn’t played in nine days and West is a tough team that already had a playoff win under its belt. But we came out relaxed and focused. When we show up relaxed and focused, we get the job done.’

The Whippets, who for a large part of the season started Williams and had Seese appear in relief for the final three innings, tried something a little different, switching the pair after each time though the order, with Seese playing shortstop when off the mound.

“That did present a challenge as a hitter,’ said Herion, whose home run came against Seese. “Seese tends to come in low, while the other girl (Williams) stays up in the zone. It’s definitely a different look, but nothing was stopping our bats today.’

West scratched out six hits against Balint after being held to five in the previous two meetings. They simply couldn’t string enough of them together.

“It’s just a shame that we had to come up against them so early in the tournament,’ said coach Joey Germani. “We tried to get as far as we could, but credit Avon Grove. I hope they go far. I will say that this is the best team I’ve coached so far. I love everyone of these girls, and couldn’t be more proud.’

Balint earned the pitching win allowing three runs — two earned — on six hits. She struck out 12, but walked a season-high six. The victory was the 50th in her career.

“I was having trouble finding my release point early in the game, but eventually I got to where I wanted to be,’ said Balint. “Great thing is that this year we’re just as much of a hitting team. Last year, we’d struggle to get one or two runs on the board. This year we feel like we can do that every inning.’


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