Last year when he was called up from the junior varsity for a brief appearance with West Chester East's baseball squad, Rich Brice could have opted to close the door on his floundering career.
Instead, Brice, now a senior and full-time varsity member, kept plugging away. And he's glad he did. Yesterday, the leftfielder delivered a pair of hits, including an RBI double, as the Vikings topped Council Rock North, 6-2, and captured the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA championship.
"I struggled last year," Brice said. "I came up for one game, pretty much to serve as a baserunner, and then I was sent back down."
Against C.R. North, batting from the No. 8 spot, the 5-foot-8, 150-pounder helped spark a three-run fourth inning with an RBI double to left-center. His shot scored designated hitter Chase Miller, who had singled to left.
"It was a low curveball," Brice said. "I just sat on it and took it the opposite way, like our coach always tells us to do."
Junior third baseman Tyler Quaile (2 for 3, run scored) also contributed from the bottom portion of East's order. In the fifth, the No. 9 batter followed Brice with an RBI double in the same direction. He scored on leadoff man Derek Prucnal's double to right-center.
"The bats at the bottom of the lineup have come alive during the playoffs," coach Dean Owens said. "It's given us a big boost."
Brice, an 18-year-old from Exton, singled to left in the second. In the sixth, he flied out to center.
"He's one of my all-time favorites," Owens said. "He stuck it out with baseball. I think a lot of people in the same position might not have done the same."
Brice, also a football player, plans to study carpentry at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster.
"I really don't like the typical classroom environment," he said. "I want more of a hands-on experience."