Sun Valley High followed a similar script in the District 1 Class AAA baseball championship.
As usual, the Vanguards fell behind. As usual, they also came back.
For the third consecutive game in the district tournament, Sun Valley rallied to victory, this time responding from a 3-2 deficit in the fifth inning to win the title over Marple Newtown, 7-5, yesterday afternoon at Everett Swanson Field at Glen Mills Schools.
Sun Valley improved to 20-1 and won its 20th consecutive game since losing to Penncrest back on March 24.
Both the Vanguards and Marple Newtown will participate in the PIAA state tournament beginning Monday. The brackets are expected to be announced today.
"I couldn't be happier for the kids," Sun Valley coach Kraig Kaufhold said. "They deserve it. They worked hard to be successful and to win it is great for them."
Especially after losing in the opening round of the district tournament last season.
"You can see it means a lot to them," Kaufhold said. "They put in the time and the work and got it done."
In the quarterfinals, Sun Valley needed a walk-off home run to advance. In the semifinals, it was a two-run single in the late innings. This time, it was a five-run fifth inning, which turned a one-run deficit into a 7-3 lead.
Catcher Joe Maloney, who had never hit in the leadoff spot before, got the comeback going with a solo home run over the fence in leftfield, tying the game at 3.
"It was kind of low and I probably shouldn't have swung at it," Maloney said. "Thankfully, it went out. It was big."
Sam Farnell added an RBI double, designated hitter Andrew Machemer (3-for-3) ripped a RBI single and pinch-hitter Max O'Malley contributed a RBI single in the breakthrough inning for the Vanguards, who had 10 hits overall.
More importantly, they received a stellar performance from Pat Sheridan, who took over for starter Pat Clark in the third and tossed four strong innings, giving up five hits and one earned run while striking out five.
"I came in just trying to throw strikes, help our team out and get outs," Sheridan said. "It's the finals and it's always a little more intense and everyone is a little more pumped up."
Both teams were obviously more intense and Sun Valley knew it was going to see a different Marple Newtown team than the one it crushed in an preseason exhibition.
"We knew they had a lot of players back from the state finals team last year," Kaufhold said. "We knew they could hit the ball. We knew they were going to come back like they did in the last inning."
The Tigers lost to Oxford in the championship game of the district tournament last year but managed to advance to the state finals, before falling to Punxsutawney, 5-4. They entered this year's district finals with seven straight wins and an experienced team featuring 11 seniors.
Sophomore Adam Fender got the start on the mound and went four-plus innings, allowing eight hits and five runs (three earned).
Even when the game seemed in doubt - trailing by four runs in the seventh - the Tigers displayed the same type of grit as last year's team. Jay Trio slammed a solo home run about 370 feet, cutting the lead to 7-4. Austin Severino (2-for-3) added a RBI single and suddenly the lead was just two runs.
With two outs, Rob Gow laced a shot to deep centerfield off Tom Brennan. But Bob Westbrook was in perfect position to make the catch and secure the district championship for the Vanguards.
Marple Newtown had nine hits and left 10 runners on base.
"We kept plugging," Tigers coach Mark Jordan said. "We lost to a great team. They won 20 straight games for a reason. We didn't give up. Starting Monday, we're 0-0."
First baseman John Rutecki said he immediately noticed the different demeanor in the dugout as opposed to last season after the deflating loss to Oxford.
"It stings a little," said Rutecki, who reached base all four times with three walks and a double. "We know we still have got another game to play. We'll come back and work hard and get ready for Monday. We're excited. We get another chance to prove ourselves and we'll try and make a nice little run again." *