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Wilson leads way as Radnor keeps rolling in PIAA tournament

CHESTER >> Radnor made believers out of Bishop McDevitt Monday, the Raiders delivering knockout blows early in their 13-4 victory in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA state baseball tournament.

Leadoff batter Connor Wilson was on base in all six plate appearances, winning pitcher Andrew Austen went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and Charlie Connolly, sidelined close to two months with a shoulder issue, hurled two shutout innings to close it out.

Radnor's Connor Wilson slides into third base ahead of the throw to Bishop McDevitt's Brett Bitting during the Raiders' 13-4 win in the PIAA Class AAA tournament first round Monday. (Digital First Media/Robert J. Gurecki)

Radnor’s Connor Wilson slides into third base ahead of the throw to Bishop McDevitt’s Brett Bitting during the Raiders’ 13-4 win in the PIAA Class AAA tournament first round Monday. (Digital First Media/Robert J. Gurecki)

The District One champion Raiders (14-10) were disappointed they didn’t end it in the bottom of the fifth inning in steamy 91-degree heat at Widener University. Matt Schaefer was thrown out at the plate although the call, if you asked anyone in the press box, would have been overruled by replay. No matter.

It was clear the Raiders weren’t going home without a triumph, 10-run-rule or otherwise, no matter how frustrated the Crusaders (15-9), seeded fourth in District 3, felt about the long ride from Harrisburg through rush hour, Blue Route traffic.

“To get our first-ever state playoff win, we’re excited, we’re happy and we’ll go wherever they send us Thursday afternoon,” said Radnor coach Mark Jordan.

The Raiders oppose District 2 champion, North Pocono, a 3-2 winner over District 4’s Selinsgrove, Thursday at a site and time to be determined.

While that could be tough for Austen’s growing fan club to get there, you can be sure Jill Smith, her 7-year-old son Keoni of Springfield and the young woman who plays goalie for the field hockey team at Springfield High are checking their GPS monitors and the weather forecast, just in case. Austen and the youths have congenital limb differences. Said Jil Smith, “We all stick together, right?”

It’s the same thing with the Radnor baseball team.

If you want to make Jordan grin, mention something about the play Will Hoysgaard made in the first inning. The junior beat out a throw that cost the Crusaders mightily.

“The throw was a little bit high,” Jordan said. “The first baseman went off the bag by three inches. Instead of a double play to end the inning he’s at first base. Seven batters later there’s seven runs up there on the scoreboard for us.

“Little plays make baseball games. They came back and scored three runs in that third inning. We came back and scored four in the bottom of the third. It was punch, counterpunch the whole time.”

The uprising began with Wilson, who legged out an infield single. Austen walked, Schaefer flew out and Hoysgaard kept it alive with his hustle.

Radnor starting pitcher Andrew Austen delivers during the Raiders' 13-4 win over Bishop McDevitt in the PIAA Class AAA tournament Monday. (Digital First Media/Robert J. Gurecki)

Radnor starting pitcher Andrew Austen delivers during the Raiders’ 13-4 win over Bishop McDevitt in the PIAA Class AAA tournament Monday. (Digital First Media/Robert J. Gurecki)

Crusaders ace hurler Joe Mione didn’t make it out of the first inning.

“Today it was all bats,” Austen said. “I pitched OK. They got a lot of hits, a few runs. Not my best stuff. But my teammates helped me at the plate. And I mean, if you score seven runs in the first inning, all you’ve got to do is just play the baseball that we know how to play and nobody’s going to beat us.”

Wilson, Austen, Schaefer and Hoysgaard have been killing it for the Raiders in the postseason. If you want to teach your kid how to establish a strike zone, bring him to a Raiders game.

“We swing at very few bad pitches anymore,” Jordan said. “All our at bats are pretty good at bats. We made the (other pitcher) work. That guy had a sub-1 ERA and we knocked him out in 2/3 of an inning. That tells you what kind of at bats we’re having all game long.

“I’m not a genius but if you score 13 runs, you have a good shot to win. The other big number up there was no errors for us. They had three and we played a clean game and we’re playing much better defensively the last few weeks.”

The Raiders also got a solid effort from Connolly, who was having a difficult time contributing without his arm or glove. He allowed two hits and two walks but struck out three, his fastball in the high-80s on the radar gun.

“The control definitely wasn’t there but it felt good just to be back out there,” Connolly said. “It’s definitely different, the aspect of being part of the team and being part and contributing. I’m glad to be back on the team.”

The opposition is having a tough time figuring out Wilson, who went 3 for 3 with a pair of walks and, you guessed it, a stolen base. As Wilson goes, so goes the offense.

“My No. 1 goal is just to get on base, take as many bags, help out the hitters, help them get RBIs and win the game,” Wilson said. “We’re just having fun. Maybe there is a little bit of magic in there because after the way we started, we did not ever think we’d be in this situation. We’re just out here having fun, cheering each other on.”

Jordan told his players their first state playoff contest was just another game. Somehow he got them to believe that. Remember this team lost its first five starts of the season.

The Crusaders wouldn’t go away. Yeah, kind of like former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, one of the school’s high profile alums.

“We’re going to fight you until the end,” McDevitt coach Joe Groff said. “There were key plays in some of those innings that obviously if we make the plays or we keep the runners off base, they don’t end up with seven runs in the first inning. They answered our three-run inning with four runs. We still felt we could come back. But they’re solid up and down. And defensively, they’re solid. They impress with how they hit the ball, put the ball in play and made us make plays. There’s no question when you get in the states and you get on a roll … I think they could go, absolutely.”

The Raiders are on a roll. Most of the players get into the games in some role. More than anything, the Raiders cannot wait to get on the field. The challenge Thursday is, well, treat it like just another game.

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