Fast start not enough for Interboro

GLENOLDEN — As Shane Springer watched a parade of Interboro batters come to the plate in the seventh inning Wednesday, there was no panic, no angst. There was no illusion that it would ever be easy.

There was just resolve.

Somehow, through the ultramarathon of baseball Springer and his West Chester East teammates have endured this week, he knew they’d summon the confidence to prevail, scraping out an 11-7 win over Interboro in the second round of the District One Class AAAA Tournament.

Along the grueling 3-hour, 5-minute path, the Vikings erased a 5-0 deficit with a seven-spot, built what seemed like a comfortable 10-5 lead midway through the sixth inning, then hung on in the seventh with Interboro having two cracks with the tying run up.

Oh yeah, and this is the team that had to survive a 15-inning, two-day classic against Penncrest in the opening round Monday into Tuesday just for a shot at what turns into an all-West Chester battle with No. 9 Rustin in Friday’s quarterfinals.

So you can forgive Springer if a little adversity — like bases loaded with one out and the Interboro lineup turning over — just rolled off his back.

“To be honest, there hasn’t been one game where we haven’t been in a tight jam like this,’ Springer said. “For us to come out like that, it’s an awesome feeling. But there’s times when I don’t know what to do and I’m freaking out, I don’t know who to yell at, should I yell at someone. But overall, we end up pulling it out somehow.’

If they so desired, the No. 17 seed Vikings (14-7) could’ve easily made a short day for themselves, checking out after Donald Edwards spotted the top-seeded Bucs (15-5) five runs in the first to dig a hole most teams would regard as inescapable.

Instead, they struck back for seven in the second, highlighted by two Springer doubles. Interboro starter Jason Lincoln didn’t help his case by mixing in two hit-by-pitches, two walks and a balk before getting the hook after recording five outs.

“We came hard out of the box, the intensity level was high,’ Interboro shortstop Billy Ketler said. “We had the best at-bats we’ve had all year. Coming into the bottom of the first, I felt good, and then … they’re a good team. They hit the ball.’

The difference Wednesday wasn’t so much the offensive explosiveness but the ability for starters to author shutdown innings. Lincoln didn’t escape the half inning after his offense’s crooked number; Edwards gave up a single to Ketler to start the bottom of the second but settled in after inducing Josh Encarnacion to bounce into a double play. He produced just one 1-2-3 inning but he steered around trouble until the sixth.

Edwards, who contributed three innings on the hill in Monday’s 12-inning installment of the Penncrest epic, knew there wasn’t much help waiting in the wings, hence the nerves he wrestled with pregame.

“I felt like in that first inning, I was like, ‘ oh, I don’t know if they’re going to keep me in there or not,” he said. “But I came out strong in the second inning, so I felt like I could stay in there and pitch well.’

He adjusted to the Interboro batters, mixing in more breaking balls with Monday’s fatigue ticking miles-per-hour off his fastball. And whereas he prevented Interboro from tacking on, stranding 10 Bucs on the day, East’s offense made sure to bolster its run total.

Culver Hughes, the Virginia Tech commit who threw nine innings Monday, reached on an error and scored in the third, then legged out an inside-the-park homer launched to deep center in the fifth.

Polillo, who worked into the sixth, calmed the game down for Interboro, allowing just three runs (one earned) and quieting the East bats that seemed capable of pushing the game toward an early, mercy-rule ending. When he tired, giving up an RBI single to Springer in the sixth, Sean Menold escaped a bases-loaded jam with a sliding Brady DiGiacomo catch in center, keeping alive the Bucs’ hope of ending a playoff drought believed to date to 1978.

The Interboro offense, though, was unable to claw back the deficit.

“Just keep it close,’ Polillo said of his mindset. “I thought we were going to win. I thought if I kept it close, they’re going to get the hits, we’re going to come back and we’re going to win.’

“I feel like (Edwards), we had him the whole game,’ Ketler said. “We had people on. We just couldn’t get people in.’

The Bucs got within inches in the seventh. Edwards hit the wall at 101 pitches, dismissed by Ketler’s sixth-inning triple. In came David Conklin, who picked up the win with three scoreless innings in the Penncrest finale Tuesday.

Ketler scored on an error to make it 10-6 in the sixth, but Ian Street’s sac fly in the top of the seventh restored a five-run cushion.

In the bottom half, Conklin allowed a run on two walks and two errors. But he struck out Ketler, who finished a homer shy of the cycle, and Encarnacion, who on a 1-2 pitch lofted a ball that was inches away from the right-field line and a bases-clearing double, representing the tying run, getting all five of his outs via the punchout.

There was never a doubt in Springer’s mind.

“I know where everyone’s heart is on this team, and I don’t think anything’s going to stop us,’ he said. “If we make a couple of errors, we’re down a few runs, we’re going to fight to the end and do what it takes until the game is over.’

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