Bears fall short to Down­ing­town

Elia­son makes amends, earns Down­ing­town West fi­nal PIAA berth at Bears’ ex­pense

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Nash tnash@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Thomas_Nash10 on Twit­ter

CH­ESTER » Tommy Elia­son stepped into the bat­ter’s box Thurs­day know­ing he owed his team­mates some­thing.

“A hit, a deep fly ball, a grounder to the right. Any­thing,” the Down­ing­town West ju­nior said.

A half-in­ning af­ter the short­stop com­mit­ted a two-run er­ror that lev­eled the game en­ter­ing the bot­tom of the sev­enth, Elia­son de­liv­ered the game-win­ning bases-loaded sac­ri­fice fly to right field to give Down­ing­town West a 4-3 win over Boyertown dur­ing the District 1 Class 6A fifth-place play­back game at Wi­dener Univer­sity.

“I came into the dugout and the team had my back,” said Elia­son. “They picked me up. Quite frankly, I was kind of mad but I got an op­por­tu­nity and I took it.”

With the win, Down­ing­town West ad­vances to the PIAA Class 6A play­offs for the first time since 2016. The Whip­pets (20-4 over­all) will face District 3 cham­pion Cum­ber­land Val­ley on Mon­day af­ter­noon at North­ern High School (Dills­burg) at 4:30 p.m. Boyertown’s spring comes to a close at 18-7 over­all, the Bears now miss­ing the PIAA play­offs for the sec­ond straight sea­son af­ter win­ning the state ti­tle in 2016.

Down­ing­town West starter Jake Reece had the Bears hand­cuffed for most of the af­ter­noon. The se­nior left-han­der lasted into the sev­enth in­ning where he was pulled af­ter ex­ceed­ing the 100-pitch count. He left the game with a 3-0 lead — thanks to a three­run blast from Eric Grintz in the bot­tom of the third — with an out and a man on first be­fore Boyertown put to­gether a three-run rally.

For his out­ing, he al­lowed just two hits — both of which came dur­ing the top of the first in­ning — to go along with four walks and seven strike­outs.

“I was mix­ing it up,” said Reece, who has a fast­ball, curve, slider and change-up in his arse­nal. “My in­side fast­ball was work­ing re­ally well and I was lo­cat­ing it.”

Per­haps the most im­pres­sive part of Reece’s out­ing was the fact that it wasn’t fully guar­an­teed.

Even af­ter West’s No. 2 pitcher went down with an in­jury ear­lier this week, Whip­pets’ head coach David Oleszek knew his team would be in good hands.

“Jake’s al­ways been com­pet­i­tive,” said Oleszek. “He got a lot of in­nings this year, a lot of game time, so we knew he’d be ready for this. He wasn’t taken by sur­prise at all.”

Boyertown starter Noah Kurtz was solid for the Bears be­fore run­ning into trou­ble in the third. Josh Wil­len­brock opened up the in­ning with an in­field sin­gle then moved over to short on Evan Wil­liams’ sac­ri­fice bunt. Af­ter Elia­son worked a five-pitch walk, Grintz ripped the first pitch he saw well over the 358-foot sign in left-cen­ter field to make it a three-run game.

“That cer­tainly cat­a­pulted us,” said Oleszek. “Any­body, any team, any­where, any level, when you hit a three-run home run, that builds a lot of mo­men­tum. That was a huge at-bat by Eric. He’s been do­ing it all year.”

By that point, Reece was in full con­trol. He sat down 11 straight bat­ters from the top of the third in­ning into the sev­enth.

Af­ter a one-out, full­count walk to Austyn Le­ven­good in the top of the sev­enth, though, Reece’s day was done. Af­ter the lefty took the long walk from mound to dugout, the Bears did some walking them­selves.

Boyertown’s Mike Martin and Jake DiCe­sare worked con­sec­u­tive walks to load up the bases be­fore Gavin Hen­der­son rolled one to short to get Le­ven­good across and make it 3-1.

Then with two down and men on sec­ond and third, Quinn Ma­son rolled one be­tween Elia­son’s legs, plat­ing two runs and evening up the game at 3-3.

“That was tough for him, we all knew that. It was a pres­sure sit­u­a­tion but it hap­pens on all lev­els,” said Oleszek. “Like we told him, mis­takes are gonna hap­pen, You’ve got to move on to the next play.”

Stephen Pos­ner and Dy­lan DiRocco opened up the bot­tom half with con­sec­u­tive walks be­fore Wil­len­brock laid down a pearl of a bunt to load up the bases.

Af­ter Wil­liams laid down a bunt to the pitcher that nearly plated Pos­ner and ended it, Elia­son stepped into the bat­ter’s box look­ing to make amends.

“I needed to get a run back for us,” he said. “I couldn’t let my team­mates down.”

Elia­son con­nected on a 3-1 pitch and sent it to right field, deep enough that DiRocco could jog in af­ter tag­ging up from third to end it.

“I’m sure right now,” said Oleszek, “he’s think­ing more about the sac fly more than the er­ror. I’m proud of him and all of th­ese guys.”

NOTES » Nolan Kline was strong in re­lief for Boyertown, pitch­ing two in­nings where he didn’t let up a hit or a walk. … Wil­len­brock fin­ished 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI for West while Elia­son had a dou­ble, a run scored and an RBI.

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Down­ing­town West’s Eric Grintz (18) cel­e­brates with team­mates af­ter hit­ting a three-run home run dur­ing Thurs­day’s game.

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Above, Boyertown’s Austyn Le­ven­good con­nects on a pitch dur­ing Thurs­day’s district play­back game against Down­ing­town West. Below, Boyertown pitcher Noah Kurtz de­liv­ers to the plate.

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Boyertown’s Nolan Kline de­liv­ers to the plate dur­ing Thurs­day’s district play­back game against Down­ing­town West.

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