By BILL RUDICK
WEST GROVE — Though the season isn't even three full weeks old, Avon Grove and West Chester East finished their season series Wednesday with the home team enjoying the advantage.
The Red Devils broke open a tie game with a four-run outburst, then rode the shutdown pitching of Maggie Balint to record a 7-3 victory in a game bewtween the top two teams in the Ches-Mont League National Division."I would have said before the season started that this would be a four-team race with the two of us, plus Henderson and Downingtown West,' said Vikings coach Chuck Lindsay. "And knowing the kind of team Avon Grove had coming back, I'd have had them the favorites. So, while I would have liked to see a different result today, we go forward knowing we have a win over them.'East (5-1) struck first, chasing Red Devils' starter Marissa Garguilo after scoring three runs on four base hits, including a pair of bunt singles, and capitalizing on a couple of errors.
"We executed well there in the beginning,' said Lindsay. "We got runners on, moved them in with bunts, and scored some runs.'
Avon Grove (6-1) answered right back, though, plating three runs in the bottom of the first on three hits. Emma Daly led off with a single to right, then, with one out, Alyssa Herion and Balint tied the game with nearly identical, back-to-back home runs over the fence in straight away center.
"I play travel ball with that pitcher (East's Olivia Rogers) so I know her pretty well,' said Herion. "I was just waiting for that first curve, and when I got it, I drove it. Then Big Mags (Balint) came through with hers and that was just icing on the cake.'Courtney Gall led off the Red Devils' second with a double, but looked like she may be stranded there after Rogers got the next two hitters on groundouts to second baseman Olivia Francoromano. Herion and Balint went back-to-back again, but this time around it was with walks, bringing Madison Porter to the plate with the bases loaded.
Porter did her part, stroking a ball to right to bring in Gall and Herion. The throw was headed home when Balint took the turn at third, but Rogers cut it off. Porter went about halfway to second, drawing a throw, but scurried back to first safely as Balint scored on throw to get Porter.
"I has no thoughts of trying for second at first,' said Porter. "But when I saw Maggie round third, I thought we might be able to get that third run if I could draw the attention away to me, and it worked.'
The four runs would be three more than Balint, who came on in relief with one out in the first, would need. When Balint wasn't recording one of her 15 strikeouts, her defense, including shortstop Logan Needham and third baseman Porter, were making plays behind her.
"Even on the two infield singles, Logan made the play deep in the hole and made strong throughs, but it was two fast lefthanders,' said Avon Grove coach Julie Hatfield. "And Maggie is reliable, consistent and a no holds back player. You know what you're going to get when Maggie is pitching.'
Balint finished the afternoon going 6 2/3 innings for the victory. She allowed just two hits and no runs while striking out 15 and walking none.
"Balint is a great pitcher,' said Lindsay. "But that doesn't mean we can't execute like we did in the first inning before she came in. It's even more important against the great pitchers that you still get the bunts down and move runners. But we didn't and I think she was getting a lot of strikeouts when we were swinging at balls out of the strikezone.'
Herion, the Red Devils catcher, confirmed Lindsay's theory, to a point.
"They were definitely chasing the rise ball,' said Herion. "But I know even I will chase that pitch. But Maggie's curveball was really on today, and she was getting quite a few strikeouts with that perfectly located curve, too.'
While you may know what you're going to get from Balint in the circle, the Red Devils have to be happy with the offensive production of the team. Avon Grove got hits from seven of the nine slots in the order, led by a 2-for-2 day from Balint, who also scored three times.
"We have to remember this game,' said Hatfield. "We had a great game against one of the top teams in the league. We came out aggressively and swinging the bats. We've got to be present every game, and if we can do that, the sky is the limit for this team.'
Avon Grove 7, W.C. East 3
EAST ab r h bi AGROVE ab r h biFrancoromano 2b 3 1 2 0 Daly 2b 4 1 1 0
Atwell cf 3 1 2 0 Needham ss 4 0 1 0
Andraos 3b 3 1 1 0 Herion c 3 2 1 2
Bond rf 3 0 1 1 Balint rf 2 2 2 1
Zimmerman rf 0 0 0 0 Porter 3b 3 1 1 2
Judge 1b 3 0 0 0 Volko lf 3 0 1 1
Rogers p 1 0 0 0 Vansciver 1b 2 0 0 0
Fuertes p 2 0 0 0 Gargulio p 2 0 0 0
Degurski c 3 0 0 0 Gall cf 3 1 1 0
Ludovico 3b 2 0 0 0
Batog lf 2 0 0 0
Ritchey ss 0 0 0 0 Totals 25 3 6 1 Totals 23 7 8 6
W.C. East 300 000 0-- 3
Avon Grove 340 000 x-- 72B - Gall. HR -- Herion, Balint.
IP H R BB SO
W.C. EastRogers, L 3 6 7 3 3
Fuertes 3 2 0 0 3
Avon GroveGarguilo .1 4 3 0 0
Balint, W 6.2 2 0 0 15