UWCHLAN >> You don’t win back-to-back Ches-Mont League National Division championships without knowing how to squeak through a close game.
Monday afternoon at a windswept Downingtown East High School field, the Downingtown West Whippets took a giant step in securing their third straight National Division crown with three runs in the last two innings to defeat Downingtown East, 3-2, and put the Whippets two full games ahead of the Cougars with three games to play.
Mike Mollenhauer’s RBI single off Scott Jewett broke a 2-2 tie and sent the winning run scampering across the plate for a dramatic one-run victory for the Whippets (12-3 Ches-Mont National, 13-3 overall), making a winner of starter Drew Britt, who outdueled Cougars lefty Will Peiffer.
“He threw me a fast ball right down the middle of the plate and I hit it,” Mollenhauer said. “We never feel we are out of a game and that may be because we have won the Ches-Mont two years in a row. To win this league three times in a row is something that has not happened a lot so it would be a great feeling and we want to put this thing away.”
Downingtown East seemed to have control of the game as the Cougars (10-5, 10-5) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning off Britt. Joe Cestare led off by getting on base due to a Whippet error. Britt then retired the next two batters with Cestare moving up to second on a stolen base. Chase Fike singled to put men on first and third and Austin Taylor’s grounder to short was mishandled and the Cougars had an unearned run off Britt and an early lead. Britt went six and two third innings and allowed just three Cougar hits while walking just one batter.
The error bug hit Downingtown West again in the bottom of the fourth inning. An error at first base put a man on and Fike ripped a long RBI triple to center field and the Cougars had a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, the Whippets were doing nothing with Peiffer as they totaled just one base hit through the first five frames.
“The errors did not bother me,” Britt said. “I knew these guys would come back. We have a solid lineup one through nine and anyone in the lineup can do damage.”
Damage was done by the Whippets in the bottom of the sixth inning with a big assist from Peiffer. Nick Campana led off with a walk. But Peiffer got Mollenhauer and Britt to fly out for two quick outs. Dylan DiRocco then walked to put two men on with two out. J.J. Freeman roped a single up the middle to load the bases with two out. Then, Peiffer made a move to pick Freeman off first base but was called for a balk and the Whippets had life, down 2-1 heading to the seventh, and Peiffer’s day was done due to the 100 pitch count limit.
“We really needed some life and to get that run in the sixth inning gave us momentum,” Britt said. “We would have come back anyway but to get that run was big for us.”
Scott Jewett came in to pitch the seventh for East and he got out of the inning on a Josh Willenbrock fly out to center. But, trouble started right after that as Eric Grintz worked a walk and Steve Posner’s ground ball was kicked at second base to put men on first and second with one out. Campana made the second out with a long fly ball to right that sent Grintz to third base with two out. Mollenhauer roped his RBI single to tie the game at 2-2 and Britt laced an RBI single to right field, sending Mollenhauer across the plate with the eventual winning run and a 3-2 lead going to the bottom of the seventh.
“These guys never believe they are out of a game,” Downingtown West coach Dave Pleszek said. “Maybe it is because they have won the league the last two years but they are very good in close games. And Drew Britt was a workhorse today. He keeps the ball down and his pitch count under control. This was a big win for us to come back like that.”
The Cougars did not go away quietly however. After pinch hitter Andrew Badar grounded out to Britt for the first out, Albert Choi was plunked by a Britt curveball to put a man on first with one out and the top of the Cougar order coming up. Britt fanned Tommy Hammett for the second out and was relieved by Adam Grintz due to his pitch count. Grintz promptly fanned Mike Rodriguez, sending the Whippet bench charging the mound after a thrilling 3-2 win and a crushing loss for the Cougars.
“We played real well for six and one third innings,” Downingtown East coach Pete Susi said. “Both pitchers pitched very well but the walk hurt us in the seventh and they put the bat on the ball. And the balk in the sixth inning was big. But our kids battled and that is all you can ask.”
Downingtown West 3, Downingtown East 2
D-WEST ab r h bi D-EAST ab r h bi
E.Grintz 3b 1 1 0 0 Hammett ss 3 0 0 0
Posner ss 2 0 1 0 Rodriguez 2b 4 0 1 0
Campana c 1 0 0 0 Launi dh 3 0 0 0
Eliason pr 0 1 0 0 Peiffer p 0 0 0 0
Ciliberto cf 0 0 0 0 Jewett p 0 0 0 0
Mollnhaur dh 3 1 1 1 Cestare rf 3 1 0 0
Britt p 4 0 1 1 Munnelly 1b 3 1 0 0
A,Grintz p 0 0 0 0 Amicon lf 3 0 0 0
Dirocco lf 3 0 0 0 Fike 3b 3 0 2 1
Freeman 2b 3 0 1 0 Taylor c 1 0 0 0
Marcelli 1b 2 0 0 0 Badar ph 1 0 0 0
Willnbrck rf 2 0 0 0 Choi cf 2 0 0 0
McNeal ph 1 0 0 0
Totals 22 3 4 2 Totals 26 2 3 1
Downingtown West 000 001 2-3
Downingtown East 010 100 0-2
Downingtown West IP R H BB SO
Britt, W 6.2 2 3 1 5
A.Grintz .1 0 0 0 1
Peiffer 6 1 2 5 8
Jewett, L 1 2 2 1 0