Spring-Ford reverses fortunes against Phoenixville to reach PAC final

BOYERTOWN >> Over the past few seasons, the Spring-Ford baseball program has had one constant thorn in its side – Phoenixville.

The Phantoms delivered the only flaw in the Rams’ 2021 Pioneer Athletic Conference championship run. Then came a cry from Phoenixville during a regular season game earlier this spring.

Spring-Ford had another chance to pick the pesky ghosts in Wednesday’s PAC Final Four game at Boyertown.

“We were excited to get back to them,” Spring-Ford senior first baseman Jake Books said. “It’s been a tough two years against them. It just feels good to get them back.

The Rams made an impressive playoff debut from senior right-hander Garrett Wible and some early offensive sparks to make roses in a 5-1 win over Phoenixville, snapping a four-game losing streak dating back to 2019.

PHOTO GALLERY: PAC Final Four Baseball 5.18.22

The win sent Spring-Ford into Thursday’s championship game to defend its 2021 title against league regular-season champion Owen J. Roberts, a 3-0 winner over Perkiomen Valley earlier in the day.

“The first time we played them, we were a totally different team,” Wible said of Phoenixville. “We didn’t have a good game the first time we played them this year, and we really wanted another chance against them, and we played well today.”

Phoenixville senior starter Drew Kingsbury has won in two of the last three wins over the Rams, including the 2019 PAC title game.

He allowed just two hits in an 11-0 shutout in six innings earlier this season, but the Rams’ bats were ready to pounce on Thursday night.

Senior shortstop Griffin Straface, second-year center fielder Nick Flores and senior first baseman Books led the game in hits to give Spring-Ford a 2-0 lead after three hitters .

“We really focused on the outside corner and on the plate, attacking it early in the count,” Books said.

Spring-Ford pitcher Michael deHaan (19) receives congratulations from teammates after saving the final against Phoenixville on Wednesday in a PAC Final Four game in Boyertown. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

The Rams had nine hits in the first three innings to lead 4-0. They went up 5-1 and chased Kingsbury in the fourth before Phoenixville junior reliever Dylan Antonini (3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K) came in and stopped them the rest of the game.

“They came out swinging, they came out with guns,” Phoenixville coach Geoff Thomas said of Spring-Ford.

“Drew has been my bulldog all year. He didn’t have his “A” thing tonight but he fought.

Straface was a catalyst for the Rams throughout the game, reaching base four times. He went 3 for 4 with two RBIs. Books and senior third baseman Aydan McNelly also had a pair of hits.

“I feel like I’m stepping onto the base, it brings a lot of energy,” Straface said.

Phoenixville had seven hits against Wible, including header doubles from Antonini, senior second baseman Adam DeJesus and junior center fielder Hudson Narke in the second, third and fifth innings, respectively.

DeJesus was the only one to go home, scoring on a helicopter down the middle by junior Colin Bull. A 5-4-3 double play shot by McNelly and senior second baseman Grant Klemann in Antonini’s second strand. Wible used his curveball to get two groundouts and escape the fifth after Narke’s hit.

Wible struck out five and walked two in six innings before Spring-Ford junior Mike deHaan, a midseason JV caller making his fourth college appearance, recorded the final three outs.

“I didn’t really have a lot of my stuff today, but just threw some shots and let my defense help me,” Wible said. “They made a lot of plays today, shot a few double plays.”

Spring-Ford pitcher Garrett Wible delivers a pitch against Phoenixville Wednesday during a PAC Final Four game in Boyertown. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Phoenixville pitcher Dylan Antonini delivers a pitch against Spring-Ford Wednesday during a PAC Final Four game in Boyertown. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Narke and junior shortstop Wade Carruthers each had two hits for Phoenixville, which left a total of nine runners in the game.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Thomas said. “We left a lot of guys in scoring position and we didn’t have timely hits. Timely successes could have made a big difference. … It was a great tune-up for the districts.

With the Phantoms ticked off the list, there’s only one PAC team the Rams haven’t eliminated this season. They’ll get their chance Thursday night against the Wildcats with a PAC title on the line.

OJR is riding a 17-game winning streak in the contest, including two wins over Spring-Ford.

“We want our revenge,” Straface said.

NOTES >> Phoenixville is the only PAC school to have a winning record over Spring-Ford since 2008, according to MaxPreps. … The Rams will be aiming for their eighth overall league title on Thursday and their fourth since 2015. … The Rams had eight hits from different players, including an RBI single from Brian Korchok and a double from Klemann.

The score of the box

Spring-Ford’s Nick Flores, left, slides safely past Phoenixville pitcher Drew Kingsbuhome at home plate Wednesday during a PAC Final Four game in Boyertown. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Spring-Ford third baseman Aydan McNelly makes a catch near the Phoenixville dugout Wednesday during a PAC Final Four game in Boyertown. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)