Phoenixville fends off Spring-Ford, books trip to PAC baseball championship

ROYERSFORD >> No. 4 Phoenixville had taken a step backward by the end of the regular season. But on Monday, the Phantoms took several paces forward. A streak lost, but a bigger bounty now within grasp.

In a loud Ram Stadium — the heart of District 1 Class 6A top-ranked Spring-Ford — Phoenixville fended off a rally, 5-4 to book a trip back to the Pioneer Athletic Conference Championship game for the first time since 2019 while avenging an eight-inning loss to the No. 1 Rams just five days prior.

The Phantoms (13-7) saw their reign of four straight Frontier division banners snapped by Pope John Paul II at the end of the regular season, but with a trip to the conference title game on Wednesday, Phoenixville now has its eyes set on a bigger bag.

With the win, the Phantoms will take on No. 3 Methacton in the PAC Championship game Wednesday at Ram Stadium with first pitch slated for 7 p.m.

“This is huge for us. We swung the bats really well today, came up with an aggressive approach and had a lot of fun,” Phoenixville shortstop Wade Carruthers said. “Put some barrels on the ball and the fielding went well too, we backed up our pitchers a lot.”

Carruthers led at the plate, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, double and two runs scored. He was also instrumental in piecing together an explosive third inning that put enough in the bank for his ball club.

Tied 1-1 in the top of the third, the Phantoms poured on four runs to pull away initially, and ultimately go the distance. With two runners on, Lleyton Coupe hit a sacrifice fly to give Phoenixville a 2-1 edge.

From there, Carruthers singled on a ground ball for an RBI, then junior catcher Nico Nattle drove in Carruthers on a line drive afterward to go up 4-1. Dylan Antonini capped the four-run burst with a base hit to wrangle in Nattle, taking a 5-1 advantage into the bottom of the third.

Phoenixville’s Wade Carruthers, right, slides back to first base to avoid being picked off by Spring-Ford’s Andrew Eross, left, during the PAC baseball semifinals at Ram Stadium on May 15. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

“We knew there was going to be some adversity. (Dylan) Broderick is a great pitcher,” senior pitcher Hudson Narke said, noting Broderick’s complete no-hitter earlier in the season. “But Dylan (Antonini) came in and shut the door. We got one more, job’s not finished yet.”

Narke — an Elon pledge — threw six innings, fanning 12 with three hits allowed. After Narke reached his pitch count through six complete, Antonini closed out by forcing a groundout and a pair of strikeouts.

“I knew I could trust my guys out there. I make pitches, they make the plays, we get the job done,” Narke said. “The slider was moving tonight, everything was working for me.”

Phoenixville’s Nico Nattle, right, celebrates with teammate Christian Cervino, left, after driving in a run against Spring-Ford during the PAC baseball semifinals at Ram Stadium on May 15. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

All offense pulled the e-brake after Phoenixville’s bountiful top of the third, neither team reaching base over the next three half innings. But it was Spring-Ford (18-3) that got the party started once more.

The Rams were held to just three hits on the night, but two were big enough to cut chunks of its deficit. Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Ryan Cecconi hit a two-run shot over the center fence to close the gap, 5-3.

Virginia Commonwealth University commit Nick Flores followed up an inning later with a solo homer, cutting the game to a single run.

“We have some guys who can swing the bat. I think when we started to get some pitches in the zone, we certainly had more competitive at-bats,” Spring-Ford coach Rick Harrison said. “(Narke) did a really nice job, I would say he was throwing predominantly slider down and slider away.

“At times we didn’t stay disciplined on that. I think when we got into some hitter’s counts and we laid off that pitch and got some fastball, we were able to put a good swing on it.”

The Rams struck first in the bottom of the first inning. Flores worked a two-out walk and stole second base before Broderick (Chestnut Hill) hit an infield single to drive him in for the initial run of the game.

Broderick also pitched six complete innings, striking out six with eight hits. Michael deHaan pitched an inning of relief, striking out one with one hit.

Villanova-bound lefty Avery Schwartz opened the door for Phoenixville’s response in the following frame. Carruthers had led off with a single and stole second base, then Schwartz — an All-Mercury first team selection — reached on an error, scoring Carruthers in the process to tie it 1-1.

With a new game in hand, Phoenixville’s second run through its lineup began to produce in the decisive third inning.

“We were starting to see some pitches a lot better, some guys coming around the second time,” Carruthers said. “We were more aggressive, picking up on the fastball first pitch. Just having a lot of fun as a team and keeping the rally going.”

Spring-Ford’s Nick Moyer swings for contact on a pitch from Phoenixville during the PAC baseball semifinals at Ram Stadium on May 15. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Coincidentally, both matchups between Spring-Ford and Phoenixville ended in 5-4 results. On the heels of an eight-inning game that swung the other direction, the Phantoms retaliated on an elevated stage.

The Rams now await their final district seeding after taking a 7-6 win over North Penn, ranked No. 2 in District 1-6A.

“I think if anything, this helped us realize what the intensity is going to be like in the playoffs,” Harrison said. “We have some guys with some experience … If we can use it as a learning tool moving forward, hopefully it will help us in districts and realize if we don’t come to play, we don’t have competitive at-bats or we’re not competitive in the field, the season can be over that quick.”

Phoenixville is ranked No. 6 in District 1-5A. The Phantoms opened their season against Methacton, losing 2-1 on March 31.

Having battled a close scrap with Spring-Ford before coming out on top the second time around, and with higher goals than a divisional title streak and PAC bragging rights within reach, Phoenixville will have to come full-circle from its conference-opening loss to the Warriors in order to win out the conference.

“They’re hungry and we are advancing. That’s a good component,” Phantoms coach Geoff Thomas said. “I’m excited to see Methacton. I’m looking for a great ballgame Wednesday evening on this stage here against a really good ball club.”


Phoenixville Spring-Ford
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Narke 4 1 1 0 Ruckman 4 0 0 0
Marsh 3 0 0 0 Moyer 4 0 0 0
Coupe 4 0 1 1 Flores 2 2 1 1
Carruthers 4 2 2 1 Broderick 3 0 1 1
Nattle 3 1 1 1 Witmer 2 0 0 0
Antonini 4 0 1 1 Korchok 3 0 0 0
A. Schwartz 3 0 1 0 Swanger 3 0 0 0
Straight 3 0 1 0 McVey 2 1 0 0
Bull 3 1 1 0 Cecconi 2 1 1 2
Totals 31 5 9 4 Totals 25 4 3 4

2B — Carruthers; HR — Cecconi, Flores.

Narke 6 3 4 4 2 12
Antonini 1 0 0 0 1 2
Broderick 6 8 5 4 0 6
deHaan 1 1 0 0 1 1
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