ASTON >> The West Chester Rustin baseball team is going to the PIAA Class 5A Tournament. Wednesday afternoon at Neumann University the 10th-seeded Golden Knights rode a five-hit, 11 strikeout performance from staff ace Kyle Kearns, to a thrilling 4-3 win over No. 12 Oxford to punch the Golden Knights’ ticket to the state playoffs in the District 1 3rd-place game.
Kearns had to leave the game due to the pitch count rule in the top the seventh inning with a man on first and two out, leading 4-1. In came freshman AJ Calio who hit the first batter he faced, then gave up a two-run double to Asher Williston to cut the advantage to 4-3.
But, Calio froze the dangerous Landen Rozich with a slider on the outside corner to seal the victory.
“I just did not want to let the seniors down out there,” Calio said. “They have been great examples for me on the field and in the classroom. I am the only freshman on the team and to make the state playoffs and get a chance to make some more memories with these guys is a great feeling. They have really embraced me on the team.”
The Golden Knights (13-10) took a 4-0 lead after three innings against Hornets starter Danny Wyatt. Oxford made three big errors behind and Wyatt walked six in his two innings of work.
The first Rustin run came in the first after David McClain struck out, but the pitch was dropped and the throw to first went into right field, scoring Bill Kraft. After three innings they had a 3-0 lead despite just one hit off Wyatt and reliever Tom Matuszweski.
Oxford tested Kearns early, putting its first two batters on in the top of the first. Asher Williston reached on an infield error, then Rozich was plunked by a Kearns’ pitch. But, Williston was thrown out trying to steal third and Kearns retired Matuszweski and Wyatt to end the threat.
“The first inning was a little tough with the first two men getting on base,” Kearns said. “But to get out of the inning a little north of 20 pitches thrown was a good thing. This was the third time I faced Oxford this season and I had to mix up my pitch sequence because it is tough to see a team three times. They get to know you little bit.”
Kearns settled in after the first inning and was cruising until the fourth. Oxford broke through when Matuszweski led off with a loud double to right center.
Wyatt followed with a single to put men on first and third. Ben Palita followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it 4-1. Kearns recovered to strike out Cole Jennings and Aidan Hernandez before getting Angus Moore to ground out to first base.
“Kyle really settled in after the first inning,” Golden Knights coach Brad Harkins said. “”We have a ton of confidence when he is on the mound and he has been doing it for us the entire season. When AJ came in we felt good because he does not let anything bother him even though he is just a freshman. He is very composed on the mound.”
Kearns retired the Hornets in order in the fifth and sixth innings, then struck out the first two batters in the seventh for his 10th and 11th strikeout of the game before being forced to leave after throwing 105 pitches.
Calio came and the rough start, got the big strikeout to end the game and send the Golden Knights into states.
They will face District 12 champion Father Judge on Monday at a site and time to be determined. Oxford ended its season at 12-12.
“It feels really great to reach states,” Kearns said. “I lost my freshman year to Covid and the last two years we did not even make districts, so this is really a great feeling.”
WC Rustin 4, Oxford 3
Oxford 000 100 2-3
WC Rustin 103 000 x-4