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Quick start powers OJR past West Chester East

BUCKTOWN– It had been a while since Owen J. Roberts earned a trip to the PIAA-AAAA playoffs.

Five years after falling to West Chester Henderson in the state championship to end their 2010 campaign, the Wildcats once again find themselves on their way back to the tournament.

And they looked as motivated as ever on Thursday afternoon, as OJR used a seven-run first inning to defeat West Chester East 10-0 in five innings and claim third place in District 1-AAAA at Owen J. Roberts stadium.

With the win, Owen J. Roberts will head to Easton High School to face Parkland, the No. 1 seed from District 11 on Monday in the opening round of the state tournament.

“We knew this would most likely be our last game on this field (for the seniors),’ said senior shortstop Collin McCourt. “I was definitely motivated to get the win because it was my last game there in this uniform. I’m glad that we have been so successful my senior year.’

McCourt had success at the plate, finishing the afternoon with two singles and two RBIs while designated hitter Alex Condello (two walks) had one hit and three RBI. Jake Leclerc (two runs scored) made an impressive catch in right at full-stride to end the Vikings’ lone threat with men on second and third in the top of the second inning. He also smacked a double to lead off the bottom half of the second before coming around to score.

“We had a sour taste in our mouths after the last game (a 10-6 loss to Council Rock North in the district semifinals on Tuesday),’ said Leclerc. “It will definitely be good to head into states on a high note like this. Everyone, from the top to the bottom of our order played well, and that’s huge.’

The Wildcats set the tone early on, rallying to score seven runs with two outs in the bottom half of the first inning.

In the inning, OJR posted three walks and five hits, including McCourt’s bases loaded single to center which was thrown out of play at third to clear the bases.

“Our kids put the ball in play early on and good things happened,’ said Owen J. Roberts skipper Greg Gilbert. “Our pitchers did a nice job of throwing strikes, and we created run support to back them up. Not much else you can ask for.’

Three Wildcat pitchers combined for the two-hit shutout.

Nate Tomlin got the start and took the win, as he went two innings allowing two walks and a hit while Grant Fitzsimmons let up one hit and struck out five across two innings. Dawson Stuart closed it out allowing no hits but a walk in the final frame.

On the other side, West Chester East put six pitchers on the mound, who combined for five strikeouts, six walks and two hit-by-pitches.

Kevin Hoffman had two singles, which turned out to be the teams’ only two hits.

“We came out totally flat in all aspects,’ said West Chester East head coach Scott Kelley. “We made it this far, sure, but that’s no reason to let up. I think our guys knew that win or lose, they were in, so they weren’t as focused as they needed to be.’

As his team enters the state tournament on Monday as the fourth seed from District 1, Kelley believes the Vikings will need to get back to their old ways, the ones that had brought them to this point in the season.

“Most of these guys have a week, possibly two, of organized baseball left in their lives,’ said Kelley. “We need to get back to the way we played all this season if we want to be successful on Monday and going the rest of the way. We’ll need to bounce back and bring our best in every game.’

And for the Wildcats, Gilbert and his team are excited for another chance to compete at states for the first time since the 2010 season.

“We’re looking forward to it,’ said Gilbert. “It’s been a good season so far with these guys. They come to practice ready to work and they come to games ready to play. They really earned this opportunity.’

McCourt echoed the words of his coach.

“We know states isn’t going to be easy,’ he said. “There’s going to be a ton of strong competition, but we’re excited to see what we can do. We’ve worked really hard this season, and I don’t think anyone is ready for it to end yet.’

NOTES– Owen J. Roberts batted around in the opening frame. … The Wildcats left seven runners on base while stranding four Viking runners. … Ten separate players had a hit for OJR. … West Chester East made two errors while Owen J. Roberts made none. … WC East’s starter Culver Hughes (Virginia Tech commit) didn’t make it out of the opening frame.

 

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