WEST NORRITON — Brian Hartsell’s broken bat broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“Broke two tonight already so I’ll take any hit I can get right now,” the Collegeville second baseman said. “It was a nice to get a lead there for Brett (Clarke).”
Hartsell’s shattered stick was still good enough to sneak a ball down the third-base line for a double, scoring Kyle Feaster from second base for the White Sox’s first lead in the fifth and deciding game of their Perkiomen Valley Twilight League quarterfinal series with Plymouth.
“Feaster’s on second, so any single scores a run, so at that point I was trying to hit a ground ball somewhere, get it through a hole,” Hartsell said. “ And with two strikes, it happened to work out.”
Lenny Del Grippo doubled the advantage with an RBI single on the next at-bat with the third-seeded Sox tacking on another run in the sixth as they rallied from a early two-run deficit and advanced to the semifinals with a 5-2 victory over the No. 6 Diamonds Monday night at Norristown Area High School.
“Got a little weird there at the end but we all stayed confident, We knew on paper we should win this series, we’ve been here before, they really haven’t,” said Feaster of the series. “Yeah, we’re really fortunate to pull it out. Shouldn’t of gone to five games but it did so we all feel pretty good about it.”
Feaster was 2-for-3 with a two-run home run that tie the game in the bottom of the third while White Sox starting pitcher Clarke struck out 14 — including the final four batters he faced — as Collegeville moves on to face fourth-seeded Nor-Gwyn in the semifinals.
Plymouth, meanwhile, was looking for a third-straight win to complete a comeback from a 2-0 series deficit and got off to a quick start, plating two runs in the top of the first. The Diamonds threatened to extend their lead in the third with runners on the corners with one out but Mike Hutchinson’s liner to the shortstop was snagged and the runner at first was doubled up. Feaster proceeded to then knot things up in the bottom of the frame with his two-run blast to left.
“The whole momentum of the game changed when that line-drive double play,” Plymouth manager Mark Roth said. “Totally changed momentum. We were running all over them, essentially not even stopping it, three or four stolen bases in those first two innings and lining into that double play when you’re struggling, that changed the whole game.”
The Diamonds hurt themselves with six errors while on the offensive side could only collect a total of two hits off Clarke, both by Owen Lawn — the Plymouth first baseman with a single in the fourth then doubled off the right-field fence in the fifth. Plymouth stranded seven baserunners, including leaving two on in both the fifth and sixth innings.
“We had them on the ropes just a few things didn’t go our way,” Roth said. “And it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Clarke claimed the complete-game win, the Collegeville righty giving up two runs — both unearned — and walked five. Plymouth starting pitcher Quinn Rovner took the loss, The Muhlenberg College commit gave up four runs — three earned — on five hits, struck out two and did not allow a walk in five innings.
The Diamonds grabbed an early lead without posting a hit in the top of the first. AJ Hansen drew a one-out walk, stole second, went to third when David Smith reach on an error then scored when Hutchinson’s fly ball to right was dropped. On the next at-bat, Nate Campbell’s sacrifice fly to right allowed Smith to come home to make it 2-0.
In the bottom of the third, Kevin Taylor led off reaching on an error and two batters later Feaster posted Collegeville’s first hit — belting a two-run homer to put the Sox on level terms.
“Their kid’s good,” said Feaster of Rovner. “We saw him last week, we scored two runs over seven innings, none earned, so we knew we were going to be in a dogfight from the start. 2-0, it was a fastball up, I was looking for it. Worked out well.”
Feaster then got the Sox’s two-run fifth going with a one-out single and advanced to second due to an error on the play. Hartsell followed with his bat-breaking RBI double to score Feaster. Hartsell then came home to make it 4-2 on Del Grippo’s RBI single.
The White Sox added a bit more insurance with a run in the sixth on Cole Luzens’ bases-loaded RBI groundout.