ROYERSFORD >> Avon Grove baseball coach John Bellaver had a brand-new experience in his 25-year coaching career Friday.
It’s one he’ll hope to never experience again.
“That’s the first time in my life I had to make two pitching changes in the first inning,” Bellaver said.
The bats in the Spring-Ford lineup bear a good bit of blame for Bellaver’s too-frequent trips to the mound.
From David Ruckman’s leadoff single through Dylan Broderick’s two-run single that plated the Rams’ 10th run in a rambunctious – pun intended – 54-minute first inning, Spring-Ford made a devastating first impression on Avon Grove in what resulted in a 13-6 victory in a District 1-6A quarterfinal Friday at Spring-Ford’s Ram Stadium.
Spring-Ford’s 10-run first inning came via seven hits and two Avon Grove errors, exacerbating things for the Devils’ first two pitchers. Center fielder Ruckman (3-for-5, RBI) had two hits in the frame, Nick Flores (2-for-3, three RBI), Jake Witmer and Gage Swanger (two RBI) each had RBI doubles.
“We knew it was going to be a big game from the start,” said second baseman Flores. “We came out with energy, which was the main emphasis. As soon as we got a few hits – hitting is contagious. It all flowed together nicely.”
The Rams have secured a spot in the state tournament and are into the District 1-6A semifinals where they will host No. 5 Plymouth Whitemarsh, which downed No. 4 Abington, 3-1, Friday. No. 8 seed Avon Grove enters playbacks and will have a win-or-go-home matchup with fellow Ches-Mont outfit Coatesville for one of the district’s six 6A placements in states on Tuesday.
The Rams picked the perfect time to heat up after falling to Phoenixville in the Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinals on May 15, putting together their second straight district win scoring double-digit runs.
“I think we’re playing together really, really well,” said Ruckman. “This is one of the best teams I’ve ever played on in terms of chemistry. Everyone wants to pick each other up, everyone wants to play for each other. That carries from the dugout onto the field.”
The big scoring margins haven’t been a daily occurrence for Spring-Ford despite their top-seed status.
“We haven’t 10-runned many teams this year. Our games have been pretty competitive,” said Spring-Ford head coach Rick Harrison. “I know we have it in us to put up a really crooked number in an inning because we do have some quality hitters.”
Ironically, the Rams’ first-inning total was so crooked it stayed a ‘0’ on the Ram Stadium scoreboard’s inning totals.
“Unexpected. Disciplined. Aggressive,” Harrison said when asked to describe his team’s first inning. “You don’t expect to score 10 runs in the first inning but I kept seeing us passing the baton and guys having quality at-bats. There were disciplined at-bats in there and I saw aggressive swings in hitter’s counts and aggressive baserunning. If you add that up it can snowball and it went in our direction.”
Spring-Ford starting pitcher Mike deHaan was able to settle in for six innings where he allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits with three walks and a strikeout.
The Red Devils, who blanked Upper Darby 10-0 a round earlier, didn’t lay down despite the disastrous beginning. Avon Grove scored four runs in the third inning via a two-run double from Owen Yoder (double, 3-for-4, two RBI), and two more scoring on catcher Joe O’Connor’s grounder that produced an error at second base.
Spring-Ford responded with its 11th with a textbook manufactured run, Flores reaching on a hit by pitch, stealing second and then being driven in on Broderick’s second run-scoring hit of the day.
Avon Grove junior Pierce O’Brien (3 2/3 IP, 4H, 3R, 2ER, 4K) did well to settle the game as the Devils’ third pitcher, but the Rams chased him in the fifth after run-scoring hits from Nick Moyer and Flores.
AG scored a couple runs in their final at-bat on a Nathan Schwing RBI single and O’Connor groundout off reliever PJ Pozniak before the S-F senior got a three-pitch strikeout to end it.
“I can’t say enough about those guys,” Bellaver said about his team. “We gave up a 10-spot in the first inning and it would have been easy to turtle and say the game’s over, give up at-bats, give up some more runs. But we continued to play extremely well, made a couple really good defensive plays, had a lot of really good at-bats and had the opportunity to throw up seven runs. So I’m happy with the overall effort … it’s just the first inning kept snowballing.”
Flores gave some credit to the Rams’ pregame ritual of their players-only huddle.
“After our sprints, we always do a team huddle run by the players. It’s a great way to get the energy going into that first inning and putting the pedal to the metal,” he said.
Whatever was said Friday, the Rams may want to replicate it every game the rest of the way.
Spring-Ford 13, Avon Grove 6
2B — Dosenbach, Yoder; Flores, Moyer, Swanger, Witmer. SB-Dosenbach; Broderick, Flores 2, Korchok, Leighton, Ruckman 3. CS-Flores. HBP-O’COnnor; Cecconi, Flores, McVey, Witmer.