THE GRATITUDE was expressed in timely fashion and a solid game report was even received.

Yes, the Inter-Ac League is competitive, but there are also friendships and that much was evident yesterday.

As things turned out, two games mattered on the league's next-to-last playing date.

Chestnut Hill Academy (8-2) could have captured the championship outright (its first since 1989) with a win at Penn Charter in both teams' finale, but PC posted a 4-1 win as senior lefty Mark Adzick, a Wake Forest signee pitching for the first time since April 18 (strained oblique muscle), spun a two-hitter.

That result shared the spotlight with Malvern Prep's 3-1 win over visiting Germantown Academy, accomplished in part because senior shortstop Phil Gosselin (Virginia signee) went 2-for-3 and scored two runs.

MP is now 7-2 and can earn a title tie Friday by beating visiting Haverford School. GA (7-3) finished out of the picture.

Gosselin said his squad focused completely on what it had to do and was unaware of the CHA-PC goings-on until coach Mike Hickey walked toward the postgame huddle.

"He said we now have a chance to tie for first on Friday," Gosselin said. "We were all pretty happy when we heard that."

Not long thereafter, Gosselin placed a cell-phone call to one of his buddies, Penn Charter outfielder Billy Goldman.

"I know Mark Adzick to see him, but I don't have his number," Gosselin said. "I do have Billy's, so I called to say thanks for helping us out. That was nice of them.

"He said Adzick didn't have his usual velocity, but his ball was moving all over the place. He also said Chestnut Hill didn't get one ball out of the infield. Is that right?"

A future reporter, that Billy Goldman.

The outfielders indeed could have called in sick. With about 10 major league scouts watching, Adzick struck out only four and got 14 outs on groundballs. Most were harmless choppers. He threw 87 pitches. The original plan called for 60 to 75, but, hey, he was mostly breezing, so . . .

"I did a 60-pitch bullpen session last Saturday," Adzick said. "It was supposed to be shorter, but I just kept on going because I missed pitching so much. It felt great to be back on the mound. My coach said, 'Mark, you want to finish this up?' I said, 'Oh, sorry, coach. Couldn't help it.' "

Adzick traced the groundball festival to mechanics.

"When I resumed throwing again [after the injury], I was trying to go up top a little more," he said. "But that was hurting a little. I checked out some old pictures with my dad and we decided my arm angle needed to go back where it was - between low three-quarters and three-quarters. I got great downward movement.

"I'm trying to be like [the Phillies'] Jamie Moyer. Pitch with intensity, but don't overdo it and try to throw first-pitch strikes."

Adzick did walk five and plunk one. He took a no-hitter into the fifth, which reliever Anthony Cafagna led off with a bunt single. Maurice "Mo" Young later delivered an infield single for an RBI.

Mike Mattei yielded one run over the first three innings (Doug Fleming's single to center), then Cafagna was uncharacteristically roughed up to some degree over the next three.

Lesser lights did the honors. Mike Basile lined a two-run homer over the fence in right-center in the fourth and Mario Incollingo fired an RBI single to right in the sixth. They bat eighth and ninth, respectively.

"It was great to see those guys come through like that," Adzick said.

Malvern scored two in the third and one in the fifth. Both times, Gosselin, recently moved from third to first in the order, got things rollin'.

"Mr. Hickey wanted to see me get more at-bats and try to set the table," he said. "I've been getting on and the guys behind me - Matt McEndy, Pete Greskoff and Chris Cowell - have been coming through."

Cowell's two-run single accounted for the first two runs. Greskoff did the fifth-inning honors, also via a single. Tim Cooney went the first six-plus innings, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out seven.

When the seventh began with Slater McCue's single, Cowell strolled to the mound and induced a grounder to Gosselin, who stepped on second and gunned to first for the doubleplay.

"Well, late in our game, I guess I was thinking about CHA-PC a little," Gosselin said. "I knew Adzick was pitching, and that his chances of pulling one out might be good."

Said Adzick: "Coach [Rick] Mellor said about 2 weeks ago that I'd be pitching this game . . . I feel great. I really missed this feeling." *