West Chester East blanked in semifinals

ROYERSFORD — The West Chester East baseball team’s march to the District 1 Class AAAA championship took an unexpected turn Tuesday afternoon at Spring-Ford High School against fourth-seeded North Penn in the semifinals.

North Penn got a sterling three-hit performance from staff ace James Witner and Jared Melone knocked in three runs with three hits for a 4-0 triumph over the Vikings. (16-7)

The Knights will face No. 15 Council Rock North at Glen Mills at 4 p.m for the championship Thursday. East will play Owen J. Roberts at a site to be determined for third place in the district.

North Penn made all the plays in the field and banged out 10 hits. The Knights touched East starter Donald Edwards early, plating two first-inning runs. Mike Christy started things with a long double and came around to score on an RBI groundout by Mason Nadeau. Melone then rocketed a Edwards fastball deep over the left center-field fence for a solo home run and a 2-0 advantage.

“The ball was up and I got it pretty good,’ Melone said. “It was important to get out early and we did that in the first inning.’

East had its chances, leaving men on base in each of the first five innings off Witner. The Vikings threatened in the second when Jim Maguire was hit by a Witner curve ball to start the inning. Ben Foti walked and the pair moved up when Dave Conklin laid down a sacrifice bunt. Witner then struck out Edwards with high fastball for the second out.

Then the game then took a strange turn. Colin Shirk hit a grounder to second for the third out and the players started running off the field. But, the home plate umpire ruled catcher’s interference and the Vikings had the bases loaded with two out. East could not capitalize as Sean O’Donnell grounded to second ro end the innings.

“Statistically, the team that scores first wins more often than not,’ East coach Scott Kelley said. “But our guys had a chance to turn the scoreboard around a number of times today. It just was not meant to be. We had runners on, but could not get the big hit. They got the big hits when they needed them and we did not.’

The Knights tacked on another run off Edwards in the third. With one out, Alex Peterson singled to center. Then, Nadeau singled to put men on first and second. Melone made it 3-0 with an RBI single.

It looked like the Vikings would break through in the top of the fifth. O’Donnell led off and bunted on the first pitch, Witner leaped off the ground and made a diving catch for the first out. Ian Street, who had two of the Vikings’ three hits, then singled sharply. Shane Springer then lofted a fly ball to center for the second out. Culver Hughes then walked to put men on first and second. Once again, Witner came through as he induced Maguire to ground out to third for the final out.

“James pitched a great game today,’ North Penn coach Kevin Manero said. “He did not have his best command, but he followed every walk with an out and he got out of trouble every time. He is fantastic to watch and his last two innings may have been his best.’

Melone knocked in his third run of the game in the bottom of the fifth with a long triple to right center.

Witner breezed through the East order in the sixth and seventh innings to cap the complete game.

“We are going to play to win Thursday,’ Kelley said. “But, we are also going to get some role players time so they are sharp for the state opener next Monday. And we will give our staters all some work to keep them on pace to be able to pitch Monday. But, we are going to play the game to win.’

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