WEST CHESTER >> They say the first step is always the hardest. Well, the top-seeded West Chester Henderson baseball team took the first step towards a possible district championship as the hosts defeated 17th-seeded Central Bucks West, 5-1, in the second round of the District 1 6A playoffs Wednesday afternoon at Bob Owens Field.
The Warriors will now host No. 9 Perkiomen Valley in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Henderson (20-1) rode a stellar 5 1/3 pitching performance from senior Jackson Snyder to the win. Snyder allowed the Bucks just five hits while striking out eight.
The hitting stars for the Warriors were Dylan Grim, Dean O’Neill and Eddie Smink, who had run-scoring hits in the victory.
“Jackson was very good for us today,” Henderson coach Luke McNichol said. “He changed speeds very well and he gave us a chance to win. With our pitching, it is important to get that first run. When we did that, it just brought a level of calmness to everybody.
“We did not feel any pressure being the number one seed. There are a lot of teams with one loss and two losses. They could have been us. I can’t look past who we play next. I can’t look down the road. We have to just take the next team in front of us.”
The Warriors left four men on base in the first two innings against left-handed starter Connor Dobos. But, the Warriors broke through in the bottom of the third. After Eric Lintelman struck out to start the inning, O’Neill ripped a double to left field.
Smink came up and tapped a hard grounder to second base for the second out with O’Neill going to third on the play. Dylan Grim took a 2-2 pitch from Dobos and drove an RBI single up the middle for an 1-0 lead.
The Bucks (10-10) also left men on in the first three innings and again in the fourth. Sam Greer led off by grounding out to short, but Matt Carr singled. Snyder got Damian Thomas to fly out to Grim at the base of the left-field fence for the second out. Snyder ended the mini threat by striking out Bill Zentmayer to end the inning.
“Jackson did a great job for us again today,” O’Neill said. “When he gets locked in, he really focuses and he is so tough. He really was on today.”
With a 1-0 lead going to the bottom of the fifth inning, the Warriors took over the game. kevin Wheeler led off with a single. Lintelman followed with a base hit to put two mwn on.
O’Neill then ripped a RBI double to left field and for a 2-0 lead. Smink then ripped a two-run single over shortstop and the Warriors were in business with a 4-0 lead after five innings.
“I hit a change up,” O’Neill said. “I just was trying to protect. The catcher said to me, ‘how did you hit that?’, but I was just trying to get my bat on the ball and I put a good swing on it and it went to the outfield. Getting that first run was very important, it loosened everybody up. Always good to play from ahead.”
The Bucks chased Snyder by scoring a run in the top of the sixth. Eric Lintelman relieved and inherited a man on third with one out. The sophomore got the next two West batters with a strikeout and a pop up to second base and the Warriors had a 4-1 lead.
Henderson plated a fifth run in the bottom of the sixth on a sacrifice fly from Wheeler for the final margin.
“They put some good swings on the ball today and I thought their pitcher was good,” McNichol said. “But, these guys kept grinding and Jackson pitched a real good game for us.”
WC Henderson 5, CB West 1
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West Chester Henderson 001 031-5
2B-Quinn, Cunnane, O’Neill 2.