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Vikings advance despite controversy

The West Chester East Vikings advanced to within a win of the state playoffs after a controversial call gave them a 9-8 walk-off win over Marple Newtown Tuesday.

Controversy seems to surround the West Chester East baseball team this season.

The Vikings advanced to within a win of the state playoffs Tuesday after a come-from-behind, walk-off win over Marple Newtown, 9-8, in Newtown Square.

But as the Vikings piled on top of Tuesday’s walk-off hero, Bill Krebs, the Marple players and coaches rushed the umpires and screamed that the game was not over.

Down 8-7 with Tom Spitz on third, Bobby Atwell on second and one out in seventh, Krebs smashed a towering drive into center field. The center fielder bobbled the catch but held on as Atwell and Spitz came in to score on the sac fly. The Tigers and their fans were outraged that the umpires seemed to miss that Atwell failed to tag second before dashing for home plate.

“As soon as it hits his mitt, our players can go,” Vikings coach Dean Owens said. “He waited until the ball hit off his mitt and took off, so it was the right call.”

The Tigers claimed Spitz too failed to tag third as he was forced down the baseline by Atwell who had already rounded third.

“A classic example of the kids working harder than the adults,” Tigers coach Steve Smith said. “The umpires got it wrong. Game over. They got it wrong.”

Nevertheless, as the Vikings piled on top of Krebs and the Tigers screamed obscenities at the umpires and pled their case, the umpires ordered the Tigers back to their baseline and left the field while the Marple fans hollered in outrage.

“I don’t know what else to say, the adults got it wrong today,” Smith said. “I’m not an umpire whiner. That ball was thrown to second without a tag and all three umpires missed it and swore they didn’t. It’s a lousy, rotten way to end a game where your kids worked this hard to win. A lousy, rotten way.”

The controversial ending is the second of such for the Vikings this season. In the final game of the regular season, the Vikings were beaten by Dowingtown East, 5-4. But upon an investigation by the league the Vikings were given the win and the Ches-Mont title because the Cougars used an ineligible pitcher, Matt Ternowchek, to close the game.

Controversy or not, for East, Krebs game-ending smash topped a comeback that places the team just one win shy of qualifying for states.

“In a tight game like this the small mistakes are magnified,” Owens said. “It seemed like early on we were making the mistakes, they were making the plays. But we kept battling.”

Down 3-0 in the second, the Vikings offence came to life when Luke Lawrence belted a drive to deep right field for a two-run homer. The Marple field has no outfield fence, so Lawrence was forced to sprint all the way around the bases but scored easily to make the score 3-2.

Two innings later in the fourth, Atwell led off with a single and advanced to third on back-to-back passed balls. A batter later, Andrew Russo drove in Atwell to tie the game at 3-3.

Tigers starter Rob Gore pitched the whole contest and allowed nine earned runs on seven hits and two walks.

Down again 4-3, Jason Gerland led off the fifth with a single. After Gerland was moved over by a Greg Corialis sacrifice bunt, Derek Prucnal drove in Gerland for the game-tying run. A batter later, Spitz drove in Prucnal to put his team up, 5-4.

Spitz finished 1-3 with an RBI, a walk and a run scored Tuesday, but on the mound too, the starting pitcher was solid.

Spitz gave up three runs in the second after allowing back-to-back-to-back hits to Ryan Schollenberger, John Brogan and Scott Todd.

The heat seemed to get to Spitz Tuesday as the young pitcher was often erratic. Spitz was charged with three wild pitches, one hit batter and walked four batters in five innings pitched.

Still, Spitz allowed just three earned runs.

“His fastball was coming today,” Owens said.

While the Tigers had plenty of base runners, Spitz and the Viking defense kept most of them from crossing home plate. In all, the Tigers stranded nine men on base.

The Tigers biggest missed opportunity came as Krebs came on in relief and loaded up the bases with none out. But Brogan flew out to shallow left and Krebs fanned Todd and Alex Hutchinson to end the inning without allowing a run.

Krebs wasn’t so lucky in the seventh. Again with the bases loaded and just one out, Krebs was pulled for Luke Lawrence. Lawrence gave up a double down the right-field line to the first batter he faced, Brian Leon, to give the Tigers an 8-5 lead.

“I told my guys in the seventh that we have a lot of baseball left,” Owens said. “They’ve been doing that all year. It wasn’t a surprise when that happened.”

But three outs later, even with temperatures topping out at 95 degrees Tuesday, Krebs didn’t seem to mind being smothered by some twenty teammates.

“It was hot down there but it felt good,” Krebs said with a laugh.

His line may have read 0-3 for the day, but included were two huge RBI.

East plays Methacton Thursday, and the winner will advance to the state playoffs.

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