Phoenixville outlasts Methacton in 13 innings, wins PAC baseball championship in instant classic

ROYERSFORD >> If Phoenixville wanted to win the Pioneer Athletic Conference baseball championship, it meant the Phantoms would need to come full circle and exorcise some demons in the process.

But exorcise turned into exercise.

Over 12 innings played to a stalemate against Methacton in the conference title game on Wednesday, No. 4 seeded Phoenixville was getting its workout in full. Inning after inning, Spring-Ford’s Ram Stadium grew louder, the margin of error thinner and all the intensity of area bragging rights only mounted as both clubs battled for every inch of ground on one another.

Tied 2-2 in the top of the 13th, the Phantoms finally pulled away for good. Phoenixville poured on three runs to escape in an instant classic, 5-2 over Methacton in the 2023 PAC championship game.

“We finally wanted to go home I guess and get some sleep,” said Phoenixville junior catcher Nico Nattle, laughing.

The PAC title is the ninth overall for Phoenixville (14-7), its first since 2019 and just the second in the current PAC Final Four format. The Warriors (17-4) opened conference play with a 2-1 win over the Phantoms on March 31. On the final day of conference play, Phoenixville bookended it with some new hardware.

The game reached 13 innings thanks to the herculean pitching efforts of Dylan Antonini and Christian Cervino for Phoenixville and Evan Jones and Ty Lohsen for Methacton, who each threw near-complete games, none allowing more than a single earned run.

Phoenixville’s Hudson Narke, right, embraces teammate Nico Nattle, left, after defeating Methacton, 5-2 in the PAC baseball championship after 13 innings at Ram Stadium on May 17. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Much in tune with a pitcher’s duel for the ages, the biggest play of the night came without a hit in the top of the 13th inning. With runners on second and third, a wild pitch brought Hudson Narke and Sam Marsh home to give Phoenixville a 4-2 advantage — that two-run cushion being the most of the night up to that point.

Nattle then added an insurance run by unloading a triple to dial up the Phantoms by three. Met by a chorus of cheers from a sea of purple in the bleachers overlooking the field, Nattle knelt down on third base, arms out and head up, releasing all the tension built up over the course of several hours.

“Big thanks to our student section for coming out. They made a lot of noise,” Nattle said. “I’m just grateful for my teammates. We pulled through and we did the little things.”

Before adding the insurance in the final moments, Nattle first gave the Phantoms life in the top of the 12th inning. Tied 1-1 since the seventh, senior shortstop Wade Carruthers reached on an error and stole second base. Next in the order, Nattle delivered a double to center, scoring Carruthers to take a 2-1 advantage.

But Methacton was quick to answer in the bottom half. Tripp Shytle led off with a base hit and took second on a fielder’s choice. Tyler Weil-Kasper then shelled a double of his own to lock the game back up, 2-2.

“While we’ll certainly harp on a number of plays that certainly didn’t work out for us with the opportunities we had over and over to win the game, at the end of the day, we just fell a little bit short,” Warriors coach Paul Spiewak said. “But certainly not for a lack of effort or lack of leadership. I’m very, very proud of our guys.”

Phoenixville’s Nico Nattle, left, and Avery Schwartz, right, celebrate after winning the PAC baseball final over Methacton, 5-2 in 13 innings at Ram Stadium on May 17. Even Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Methacton drew first blood in the bottom of the third inning. An error and two walks loaded the bases for the Warriors with two outs. On a full count, Shytle worked a walk to force in the first run of the game.

While the series of walks at the plate were a boost for Methacton, the Warriors entered the game with a devastating lineup that features four players batting over .300.

Facing a hitting corps. consisting of Bobby Kleckner (.319 AVG), Jake Chapman (.353), Kross Howarth (.365) and Shytle (.380), it was senior Antonini who was tasked with the start for the Phantoms.

Through 5.1 innings, Antonini struck out four with three hits and five walks.

Cervino entered in relief and ultimately threw 6.2 innings with three strikeouts and six hits allowed, earning the win.

“We knew their lineup outside and in. They knew I was starting even before the game. It was just me and them in there together, and their starter did a great job too,” Antonini said, crediting Methacton starter Evan Jones. “He kept us at bay until the seventh inning.”

Phoenixville pitcher Dylan Antonini delivers to Methacton from the mound during the PAC baseball championship at Ram Stadium on May 17. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Jones threw five innings of two-hit, shutout ball for Methacton with seven strikeouts, tugging the rope away from Phoenixville and in Methacton’s direction throughout the night. Ty Lohsen relieved him and struck out 11 over the course of seven innings – a complete game under normal circumstances.

It wasn’t until the top of the seventh that Phoenixville got on the board. Elon commit Narke reached on error to lead off and advanced to second base on an obstruction call at first during a pickoff attempt.

Once Narke reached third base on a fielder’s choice, Lleyton Coupe hit the equalizer on a sacrifice fly, bringing in Narke to knot it 1-1.

The run for the Phantoms came after six innings of getting into scoring position and coming up just short. Altogether, Phoenixville left 16 players on base on the night. Every bit of ground, and the eventual tying run, earned through perseverance during a marathon.

“I’m just so proud of their grit, their determination,” Phantoms coach Geoff Thomas said. “The adversity, their ability and willingness to deal with the adversity. Getting guys into scoring position and leaving runners on base, that can really get you down. We just fought and fought and fought.”

Having won the last four PAC Frontier titles (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022), losing the pennant to divisional rival Pope John Paul II ahead of the PAC Final Four added another layer, more hunger for a Phoenixville group that’s been accustomed to success over the last half decade.

“For Phoenixville, it’s a big thing. After losing to Pope twice, we lost the Frontier and a lot of people doubted us,” Nattle said. “We were coming into the season hot and lost a good pitcher early on. But our confidence stayed up early on, and all the way through the year.”

Phoenixville’s baseball team poses with its championship plaque after defeating Methacton, 5-2 in the PAC baseball final after 13 innings at Ram Stadium on May 17. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

The last time the Warriors reached the PAC final was 2014. They went on to win it, 2-1 over Pope John Paul II for their lone title before moving on to win the district tournament.

Methacton — currently the top-ranked team in District 1 Class 6A — is primed for a first-round bye in the district tournament, the top eight in the field of 24 advancing to the second round.

“This is about as devastating as it gets. With that said, we talked about how this will come to an end at some point and just imagine if it came to an end like this,” Spiewak said. “The fact of the matter is, the beauty of the situation, we have a chance to play really meaningful baseball coming up. We’ll let this sting for a couple days, then we have to refocus and make sure it ends up being the spark.”

While it awaits its pairing, Phoenixville is ranked No. 6 in District 1-5A ahead of the district tournament.

After taking down two of the top five clubs in District 1-6A — Spring-Ford being No. 1 — over the course of 20 innings in a three-day span, the Phantoms have some pep in their step, tired as they may be.

“It’s now down to we lose, we go home. That’s what districts becomes,” Thomas said. “All the time, all the effort we’ve put into this, you don’t want it to come to an end.”


Team123456789 RHE
Phoenixville Methacton
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Narke 6 2 1 0 Chapman 7 0 0 0
Marsh 5 1 0 0 Kleckner 6 1 1 0
Coupe 4 1 0 1 Howarth 4 0 1 0
Carruthers 7 1 1 0 Kratz 4 0 1 0
Nattle 6 0 3 2 McNally 0 0 0 0
Antonini 2 0 0 0 Shytle 5 1 1 1
Cervino 2 0 0 0 Frank 0 0 0 0
Schwartz 2 0 0 0 Christian 4 0 1 0
Kingsbury 1 0 0 0 WeilKasper 5 0 2 1
Straight 5 0 1 0 Daddazio 0 0 0 0
Bull 6 0 1 0 Greenburg 0 0 0 0
BSchwartz 0 0 0 0 Humes 5 0 0 0
Lohsen 5 0 2 0
Totals 46 5 7 3 Totals 45 2 9 2

2B — Weil-Kasper. 3B-Nattle; Weil-Kasper. Sac-Marsh, Cervino; Christian. HBP-Antonini 2; Christian. SB-Lohsen. LOB-Px 16, Meth 15

Antonini 5.1 3 1 1 5 4
Cervino (W) 6.2 6 1 1 5 3
Schwartz 1 0 0 0 0 1
Jones 5 2 0 0 4 7
Lohsen 7 4 2 0 2 11
Christian (L) 1 1 3 3 3 1
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