Always trying to stay one step ahead of the competition, West Chester East's Steve Snyder, a standout shortstop for the Vikings, played center field last summer in the All-Star Baseball Academy program.

With quick feet and a powerful arm, Snyder is expected to move to center at Penn State.

"I wanted to get ready for college ball," he said. "I'm comfortable at either position. In the outfield, I think I have the ability to cover a lot of ground."

Except for a seventh-inning throwing error, Snyder showed his usual rock-solid form in yesterday's PIAA District 1 Class AAAA championship game against Council Rock North. The senior assisted on three put-outs and went 2 for 4, with two runs scored, as East downed the Indians, 6-2, under a cloudy sky at Bears Stadium in Boyertown.

The Vikings, 21-3 and ranked No. 3 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, captured their first district crown since 2004. That year, when the highest enrollment classification was AAA, they defeated Springfield (Delco), 5-2, in the final.

"This is awesome," said senior catcher Justin Leeson, who is headed for Georgetown. "But we can't get caught up in this victory. We need to enjoy it for a short while and then get back to work."

In Monday's opening round of the state tournament, the Ches-Mont League National Division champions will face District 3's third-place qualifier at a District 1 site and time to be determined.

The No. 8-ranked Indians (15-6) also earned one of the district's five berths at states. At a District 1 site and time to be determined, they will take on Central, which lost last night's District 12 final to St. Joseph's Prep, 11-1.

Much was expected of East this season, since Snyder, Leeson, and a pair of Division I-bound hurlers in Neal Herring (Penn State) and Jay Lynch (Binghamton) returned. "We've just tried to take it one game at a time," Snyder said.

Against C.R. North, Snyder's second single of the afternoon, to right field, opened the fifth inning. He moved to third on an errant pick-off throw to first base, then scored on a wild pitch to give East a 5-0 advantage.

"He's hit in every game this season," Vikings coach Dean Owens said. "Also, when he gets on, it's almost like an automatic double because of his speed."

Lynch pitched only the first two innings before giving way to fellow senior righthander Robby Worrell and, later, junior lefthander Bill Fallis. Owens wanted to keep Lynch rested for his scheduled start Monday. Herring pitched in Wednesday's 6-2 semifinal win over Pennridge.

In the fourth, three consecutive RBI doubles - by Rich Brice, Tyler Quaile and Derek Prucnal - put the Indians in a 4-0 hole.

C.R. North starter Kelly Adams, a senior righthander, yielded eight hits and five runs (four earned) in five innings.

The Indians, capitalizing on three straight walks, scored both their runs in the sixth. Adams tagged up and scored on a foul pop to first baseman Prucnal, and Tim Filer went home on Lee Marvel's single down the third-base line.

W.C. East 010 310 1 - 6 11 1

C.R. North 000 002 0 - 2 6 1

WP: Robby Worrell. LP: Kelly Adams. 2B: WCE-Rich Brice, Tyler Quaile, Derek Prucnal, Justin Leeson.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or robrien@phillynews.com.