LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Phoenixville had regrets. Seeing a 6-0 lead disappear will do that.
But after watching Pottsgrove’s baseball team plate six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning – highlighted by Mike Gantert’s grand slam – Friday afternoon to knot the score and ultimately send the Pioneer Athletic Conference game into extra innings, the Phantoms then scored three runs in the top of the 10th inning to come away with a 9-7 victory over the Falcons.
Kevin Cushing (six innings), Morgan Bennyhoff (three) and Zack Masalski combined on the pitching victory for Phoenixville (2-2 PAC-10, 2-4 overall). The Phantoms took their early lead with the help of a four-run outburst in the third inning. Nick Opalkowski, Cushing and Matt Palubinsky (triple) helped trigger the offense for the Phantoms.
“Obviously, a win is a win,” said Phoenixville first-year head coach Neil Herman. “It doesn’t matter how you win, just so you get it. We made some mistakes. We have to learn how to finish the game. We got a little comfortable, and we weren’t as intense as we needed to be.
“But give credit to Pottsgrove. They battled the whole game. This is the first year for (coach) Jamie (Nash) and they will build that program.”
In Phoenixville’s top of the 10th inning, catcher Opalkowski (two hits, two RBI) walked with one out before Cushing singled. With two down, Kyle Bennick singled to right field to plate courtesy runner Freddy Bieler with the go-ahead run. Bennyhoff followed with a two-run single through the middle for a pair of insurance runs.
In the bottom of the frame, Pottsgrove had two outs before Bailey Delp, Garrett Bleakley and starting pitcher Dean Fiorini provided three straight singles to account for one run. Alex Stump followed with another single to load the bases, but Gantert, whose grand slam over the left-field fence tied the game at 6 in the sixth inning, flied out to Bennick in right field to end the game.
“I can’t say enough about Nick Opalkowski,” said Herman. “He did a great job at the plate every time up.
“We are 2-2 right now and right in the hunt for the Final Four and district playoffs. We got the win over Methacton when Matt Osisek-Byrne pitched his butt off. That was a confidence-builder that we can play with anybody in the league.”
Cushing was in complete control of the Falcons through the first five innings, allowing just three hits and no runs before Pottsgrove batted around in the sixth to tie it. Gantert got a ball up into the wind with the bases loaded and two outs, and the wind helped carry it out of the ballpark for the homer. Cushing had six strikeouts and no walks. Bennyhoff pitched three innings and gave up one hit and no runs with four strikeouts. Masalski came on to pitch the final inning.
Fiorini and Alex Stump each pitched five innings for the Falcons.
“I was extremely unhappy with our first five innings,” said Nash. “We were very mentally poor. But I was extremely happy and extremely proud of the way we battled back. We have an inexperienced team, and it is a big learning curve. At this point we have to learn how to win.
“I told Gantert when he came up he was the right man in the right spot. He is a great kid. He is a captain and gives up great leadership. I have great confidence in him as a leader.”
Bailey Delp and Garrett Bleakley each had three hits for the Falcons while Fiorini had two hits. Max Stump and Alex Stump each chipped in with an RBI.