Spring-Ford walks off against Phoenixville in extras in PAC baseball semifinal preview

ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford and Phoenixville didn’t wait until Monday to put on a show.

In a preview of the Pioneer Athletic Conference baseball semifinals — where both teams are set to face off again for bigger stakes — the Rams and Phantoms alternated leads, held three ties and took one another to extra innings.

Locked 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth, it was sophomore right fielder Jake Witmer who dealt the last punch. Witmer recorded a base hit on a 2-2 pitch, driving in Nick Moyer for the final run and a Spring-Ford walkoff, 5-4 over Phoenixville at Ram Stadium on Wednesday.

“On the first two pitches, I swung right through them so I got blown back twice,” Witmer said. “I widened out my stance and just said to myself, ‘I’m not letting another one by.’ He threw another fastball, I just slapped it the other way and got through.”

Colin Bull (three strikeouts, two hits) was in relief of starter Christian Cervino (four strikeouts, seven hits) for the Phantoms (12-7, 8-2) in the seventh inning, but was replaced by shortstop Wade Carruthers in the final frame.

“It’s a shame, Colin got a cramp, that was an unexpected cramp, but Wade battled as well,” Phoenixville coach Geoff Thomas said. “Extra-inning games, someone’s going to score a run eventually. The smile on my face allows me to say, and I just told those guys, we have the opportunity to come back here on Monday night to see the same matchup.”

Down 4-3 in the top of the seventh, the Phantoms looked to Nico Nattle to give their club life. With the bases loaded and an out to give, Nattle hit a sacrifice fly, bringing home the tying run to force the extra inning.

The bulk of Phoenixville’s damage came in the third frame with three runs on three hits. Trailing 2-0, Jake Straight (2-for-3, run) led off with a single en route to a bases-loaded situation. With two outs, Carruthers drove in two runs to knot the game 2-2.

Nattle then followed up with a line drive to give the Phantoms a 3-2 edge through three innings.

“We were just being aggressive, getting after the first pitch and getting ahead on the count and putting the ball in play,” Thomas said. “I gave a steal sign that worked to our advantage on the hit-and-run. The hit-and-run play is a tremendous baseball play if you put the ball in play on the ground. The holes get open and it allows for the ball to get through.”

Mike deHaan threw six innings for the Rams (17-2, 9-1), striking out nine with five hits allowed. After Phoenixville’s three-run burst, Spring-Ford tightened things up in the field and played behind deHaan to keep things from getting out of hand.

“We threw our second best guy in Mike and he threw really well, but (Phoenixville) made a lot of good contact and that shows us where to align defensively to see where their good guys hit where and where other guys leak balls through,” Witmer said. “It just helps our defensive alignment better.”

Spring-Ford’s Nick Flores, right, celebrates with teammate Gage Swanger, left, after scoring a run against Phoenixville during a PAC crossover baseball game at Ram Stadium on May 10. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Gutsy baserunning allowed the Rams to produce most of their runs, and as early as the bottom of the first inning. Junior center fielder David Ruckman (3-for-5, two runs) led off with a base hit, stole second and worked his way to third on a fly ball before stealing home plate.

Witmer then scored Virginia Commonwealth commit Nick Flores on a line drive to go up 2-0. Both runs in the first inning were made with two outs.

“We’re always generally an aggressive program,” Spring-Ford coach Rick Harrison said. “We like to say we ‘play pressure baseball’ but I think this year, we’ve implemented some things and we’ve been a little more aggressive and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”

That aggression on the base paths worked again, fueling another two runs in the fourth inning. Ruckman recorded his third hit of the game and was driven in by Flores to equalize the contest, 3-3.

With a new ball game in hand, a wild pitch scored Nick Moyer, giving the Rams the lead again 4-3. Like the first inning, both runs were plated with two outs, one of which coming from a gutsy dash home.

“We love to be aggressive,” Witmer said. “We like to take the momentum off of hits and get as many bases as we can.”

Phoenixville’s Lleyton Coupe, left, swings for contact on a pitch from Spring-Ford during a PAC crossover baseball game at Ram Stadium on May 10. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

While the game had no sway in PAC playoff implications — Spring-Ford and Phoenixville being paired at first and fourth seeds respectively — it wasn’t without some merit in district rankings. The Rams sit at No. 2 in the District 1 Class 6A field and Phoenixville is ranked No. 5 in District 1-5A.

The two will meet again at Ram Stadium on Monday, first pitch at 7 p.m. for a ticket to the PAC final where the eventual winner will take on the victor between No. 2 Pope John Paul II and No. 3 Methacton, who play at 4 p.m.

“We’re excited. There’s going to be a large crowd out here,” Witmer said. “We just got through extra innings, there’s nothing more you can ask for. It’ll be a good game.”


Phoenixville Spring-Ford
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Narke 3 2 0 0 Ruckman 5 2 3 0
Marsh 3 0 0 0 Moyer 3 2 1 0
Coupe 3 1 1 0 Flores 4 1 1 1
Carruthers 3 0 1 2 Broderick 3 0 0 0
Nattle 4 0 1 2 Witmer 4 0 2 2
Schwartz 4 0 0 0 Korchok 2 0 1 0
Antonini 4 0 0 0 Swanger 4 0 1 0
Straight 3 1 2 0 McVey 3 0 2 0
Bull 3 0 1 0 Cecconi 4 0 0 0
Totals 30 4 6 4 Totals 32 5 11 3

2B — Bull; Ruckman.

Cervino 4 7 4 4 6 4
Bull 3 2 0 0 1 3
Carruthers 0.1 2 1 1 1 0
deHaan 6 5 3 3 1 9
Crawford 0.1 0 1 1 2 0
Wible 1.2 1 0 0 0 2
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