Phoenixville overtakes Spring-Ford, returns to PAC throne after long absence

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By DAVE KURTZ

ROYERSFORD – The celebration was 17 years in the making, and the anticipation was building like a backed-up water pipe on the brink of erupting.

When the final strike safely nestled in Phoenixville catcher Justin Geiger’s mitt, it all broke loose, a wave of pure purple that swallowed up sophomore pitcher Jason Bilotti at the mound and produced the obligatory mosh-pit scene that serves as baseball jubilation.

The Frontier Division champion Phantoms had finally returned to the Pioneer Athletic Conference mountain top, courtesy of an electric 5-3 win over Spring-Ford Thursday night at Ram Stadium.

Talk about a home invasion.

“To be able to claim the PAC championship, there’s really no greater ending to a high school baseball career,” said Trip Shoemaker, the gifted senior center fielder who kick-started Phoenixville’s three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth that erased a 3-2 deficit. “We played strong and focused and executed in the field and at the plate.

“The young pitchers – (freshman) Drew Kingsbury and (sophomore) Jason Bilotti – really came through. After losing last year (7-0 to Boyertown in PAC championship game) this just feels great to be the PAC champions.”

Shoemaker is blessed with outstanding baseball bloodlines. His father Steve Shoemaker was a standout pitcher-outfielder for the Phantoms from 1988-1991, a stretch that produced league championships in 1988, ’89 and ’90.

Steve Shoemaker went on to play at the University of Alabama and was later drafted in the fourth round by the New York Yankees, pitching six years professionally and getting as high as Triple A before an arm injury derailed his bid to reach the Show.

Thursday, the younger Shoemaker displayed the same affinity for the spotlight, drilling a booming one-out triple to right to get the rally going in the sixth.

Walks to the dangerous Ethan O’Donnell (3-3, double, two runs) and Dylan Clark loaded the bases, and Shoemaker then scored the game-tying run on a balk by reliever Tyler Leonard.

A passed ball plated O’Donnell moments later and Devon Goryl followed with an RBI-single to bring the lead to 5-3.

Bilotti did the rest, striking out the side in the seventh around a Ben Wilchacky double to seal the deal.

“We have been coming back in games all year,” said Phoenixville interim head coach Dave Cimina. “We were behind 8-1 (to Upper Merion) in one game and came back to win with seven runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth after they had gone back up 9-8.

“Today, the freshman and sophomore pitchers were throwing great. Bilotti was really wheeling in the seventh, throwing fastballs past guys and getting the final strikeout on a curveball. He showed a lot of poise out there.”

Coming off an emotional 6-5, eight-inning semifinal win over Owen J. Roberts Wednesday that featured Phoenixville’s patented late magic DNA, the Phantoms got the early jump Thursday, posting single runs in the second and third innings on RBI-singles by Dylan Crammer and Clark for a 2-0 lead that stood up until the Rams’ bats awakened in the sixth.

Down to their final six outs, the Rams laid the barrel to the ball. In rapid-fire order. Chase Simmons tripled, Mark McNelly delivered an RBI-single and David McCurry followed with a run-scoring double to the fence in right to lock things at 2.

Hunter Curley then moved McCurry up to third with a sacrifice bunt, and Jason Smiley dropped a perfect safety squeeze for the go-ahead run.

But the celebration would be short-lived.

“You’re not going to win a lot of games with four hits,” said Spring-Ford coach Jamie Scheck. “It was hard to figure the way we hit the ball Wednesday (amassing 11 hits in a 9-2 semifinal win over Methacton).

“Our pitchers didn’t work ahead and we gave them too many free passes. But give Phoenixville credit. They hit, played good defense and their pitchers worked all parts of the plate, showing a lot of poise.”

That poise and grit came to the forefront in the home half of the sixth, as Phoenixville set the stage for a coming-out party, and had an answer for the Spring-Ford uprising.

“All my teammates, we just love to be out here playing with each other,” said Shoemaker. “But we wanted to do this for ourselves.”

“When (my dad) was here they had a powerhouse team. It was just great being able to look back on that, come here today and get the win.”

EXTRA BASES: Spring-Ford, seeded No. 14, opens the District 1-6A playoffs Monday at home against (19) Quakertown while (5) Phoenixville hosts (12) West Chester Rustin Monday in Class 5A … The PAC has strong representation in the district tournament. (13) Boyertown, (18) Perkiomen Valley, (12) Owen J. Roberts and (4) Methacton are in the 6A field, (10) Pottsgrove and (13) Upper Perkiomen join the Phantoms in Class 5A while (3) Pope John Paul II and (4) Pottstown will play in the Class 4A bracket. Norristown and Upper Merion were the PAC’s only non-qualifiers.

Phoenixville 5, Spring-Ford 3
Spring-Ford
AB
R
H
BI
 
Phoenixville
AB
R
H
BI
Wilchacky rf-p
3
0
2
0
 
Brown ss
4
0
1
0
Simmons cf
3
1
1
0
 
Shoemaker cf
4
1
1
0
McNelly ss
3
1
1
1
 
O’Donnell dh
3
2
3
0
McCurry lf
3
1
1
1
 
Clark 1b
3
0
1
1
Curley p-1b
1
0
0
0
 
Keener pr
0
1
0
0
Zoller cr
0
0
0
0
 
Goryl 2b
4
0
2
1
Smiley 1b-rf
2
0
0
1
 
Blakey rf
3
1
0
0
Kratz 2b
3
0
0
0
 
Fink lf
3
0
0
0
Kisela dh
3
0
0
0
 
Greenwalt pr
0
0
0
0
Romeu c
0
0
0
0
 
Crammer 3b
2
0
2
1
Collons 3b
3
0
0
0
 
Geiger c
2
0
0
0
 
 
 
 
 
 
August cr
0
0
0
0
Totals
24
3
5
3
 
Totals
28
5
10
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Spring-Ford     000 003 0 - 3
Phoenixville     011 003 x - 5
2B-O’Donnell, Goryl, McCurry, Wilchacky. 3B-Simmons, Shoemaker. SB-Wilchacky 3, Simmons, O’Donnell, McNelly. S-Curley, Smiley. LOB-Spring-Ford 5, Phoenixville 10.
Spring-Ford
IP
H
R
ER
BB
SO
BF
 
Phoenixville
IP
H
R
ER
BB
SO
 
BF
Curley
3.0
6
2
2
1
2
-
 
Kingsbury
5
3
2
2
2
3
 
-
Wilchacky (L)
2.1
2
2
2
2
2
-
 
Bilotti (W)
2
2
1
1
0
4
 
-
Leonard
0
1
1
1
1
0
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-
Webb
0.2
0
0
0
0
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-
Leonard faced 2 batters in 6th; Kingsbury faced 2 batters in 6th
HBP-(by Curley) Blakey, Crammer. (by Kingsbury) Curley
Balk-Leonard. PB-Romeu