Who is Spring-Ford's pitching ace? Is it Sean Larkin, who has been rock-solid for the last three baseball seasons? Or is it fellow senior Mike Oczypok, who emerged this year as a lights-out hurler?

Larkin, for one, doesn't want to get involved in that debate.

"I just think we have two really good pitchers," the 6-foot-4, 170-pounder said. "It's a fun little competition between the two of us. I only worry about doing well when it's my turn to pitch."

Larkin did just that in Friday's PIAA District 1 Class AAAA playoff quarterfinal against West Chester East. He allowed one earned run over 62/3 innings as the visiting Rams defeated the Vikings, 6-3, and clinched a berth in the state tournament.

Had it not been for the four errors committed behind him, Larkin likely would have gone the distance.

"That's baseball," he said. "You just have to fight through it."

On Tuesday, in a 4 p.m. semifinal at Great Valley, Spring-Ford (20-4) will face defending district champ Council Rock North (18-2).

Also Tuesday, in a consolation bracket that has four teams trying to gain the district's fifth berth in states, W.C. East (18-3) will play Owen J. Roberts (16-7).

Against the Vikings, Larkin mixed a fastball (clocked at 87 m.p.h. last year), curveball, slider, and change-up.

"Sean has been good since he's been in 10th grade," Rams coach Bruce Brobst said. "He's a smart kid, works hard on his craft."

Oczypok, who played first base vs. W.C. East, has improved greatly as a pitcher since last season.

"He's been fabulous," Larkin said. "He's aggressive, throws all his pitches for strikes. He's pitched well against some very good teams."

Larkin doubles as a first baseman. Despite his strong efforts on the mound, he was overlooked by Pioneer Athletic Conference coaches when it came to choosing first- and second-team all-league performers.

"I was kind of upset about that," he said. "You like to be recognized for your hard work. That's always nice."

Larkin took the mound Friday with a 2-0 lead, thanks to four consecutive singles, including Oczypok's two-run hit.

"That was huge for me," Larkin said. "It gives you a little adrenaline, pumps you up. And it allows you to be a little more aggressive and to go after hitters."

In the fourth inning, Patrick Medley's two-run homer made it 4-0. "I got a fastball," the senior leftfielder said. "I thought it was a fly ball, but it just kept carrying."

In the Rams' 13-hit attack, Tom Grablewski went 3 for 4 with three runs, Ricky Gorrell was 2 for 4 with two runs, and Oczypok added an RBI sacrifice fly in a two-run sixth.

In the seventh, after W.C. East closed the gap to 6-3, lefthander Josh Mellon took over for Larkin and, with the bases loaded, ended the rally with a strikeout on a 3-2 fastball.

Spring-Ford 200 202 0 - 6 13 4

West Chester East 000 001 2 - 3 6 0

WP: Sean Larkin. LP: Bill Krebs. 2B: SF-Larkin, Louis Vining; WCE-Greg Corialas. HR: SF-Patrick Medley.