Kraig Kaufhold couldn't ask for a better situation. The Sun Valley baseball coach has the hottest team in the area, owners of an 18-game winning streak as the PIAA District 1, Class AAA playoffs begin next week.

But Kaufhold is a little guarded. The Vanguards will open their quest to reach the state championship game for the second time in 3 years, starting by hosting Springfield (Delco) next Thursday (4 p.m.) at Sun Valley.

The Vanguards are fresh off a 12-2 victory over Downingtown West yesterday, and enter the district playoffs with arguably the deepest group of pitchers in the area.

Four of Sun Valley's five starters have won at least three games, and four had earned at least one save this season entering yesterday's game. The Vanguards, who are 18-1, have been buoyed on the mound by seniors Pat Sheridan (4-0, 0.93 ERA), Pat Clark (4-0, 2.07), Ed Toy (4-1, 2.10) and Mike Pappas (3-1, 3.15), and junior Tom Brennan (four saves, 2.21). The five have thrown 101 of 110 innings entering yesterday's game.

Kaufhold likes the way his team is playing right now. But he doesn't want to think too far ahead, with Springfield (10-8) coming up.

"We are playing some good baseball," Kaufhold said. "We're still looking for that perfect game; that kind of game where everything comes together, like pitching, hitting, defense. We're trying to put everything together entering the playoffs. But I feel good about how we're playing. The thing that I have to keep in mind, and remind my team, is that this is one-and-done time. We have to play with a sense of urgency, where you can't take an inning or at-bat off."

Springfield is coming off one of its biggest victories the season, over Lower Merion.

"Sun Valley is definitely a good team," Springfield coach Jeff Smith said. "They're a playoff team that's in this before, and they have a solid core." *

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