It took Unionville High seven innings to figure out how to slow down the hot bats of Marple Newtown - break them. That's much easier said than done when they are using aluminum bats.

Breaking an aluminum bat is not easy. So by the time Unionville stumbled upon the unconventional game plan, Marple Newtown had done more than enough damage. The Tigers were well on their way to a 10-5 victory at Glen Mills' Everett Swanson baseball complex that put them into the final of the District 1 Class AAA playoffs for the second straight year tomorrow, when they will play Sun Valley. The win also put Marple Newtown (15-6) into the state tournament for the second straight season.

"We really worked our butt off to get here," said rightfielder Chris Orlando, who had three hits before watching helplessly as the barrel of his brand-new $300 bat fluttered dangerously over the mound on a groundout in the final inning.

"It means a lot [to make the state and district finals for the second straight year]," Marple Newtown coach Mark Jordan said. "People thought we were down a little bit a couple years ago. For instance, they thought these seniors weren't going to do much. This is going to be their second straight district final game, their second straight state tournament. Fifteen wins last year, 15 wins this year. That's 30 wins in 2 years for these guys. That's a lot of wins."

The Tigers still need to be better than last year. They lost the 2007 District 1 and state final. Still, they are confident despite facing a Sun Valley team that is not only 20-1, but also routed the Tigers in a preseason scrimmage several months back.

"We met them in a scrimmage game and they beat us, 12-1," Jordan said. "We know them well. They said to us, 'Maybe we'll see you down the road in a game that means something.'

"I said, 'Maybe we'll see you, but we'll be in the stands in Widener watching probably. We thought we were a work in progress. But we're playing well of late."

That's an understatement. The Tigers have won 10 of their last 11 games.

But making the finals isn't enough this year. Having already whetted their palates, the Tigers are craving the sweet taste of a championship.

"We still have a lot of work to do both in states and districts. We were thinking about getting back to where we were last year and getting further. Now we want to get back to where we were last year and win," Marple Newtown third baseman Demetri Vlahos said. *