DOWNINGTOWN EAST 6, COATESVILLE 0
After taking charge of the Downingtown East baseball program, Pete Susi made team chemistry as big a priority as rock-solid fundamentals.
"The Downingtown area has always had talent," he said. "I wanted to get the kids to care about each other and play together. If you can develop that as a coach, everything else kind of takes care of itself."
The bonding process continued Friday afternoon for the tight-knit and hard-working Cougars. This time, they blanked host Coatesville, 6-0, in a Ches-Mont League National Conference game that lasted 1 hour, 35 minutes.
Susi, a math teacher at Lionville Middle School in Exton, was East's jayvee coach for six years. He played baseball and football at Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt and East Stroudsburg.
"We came together as a team right away this year," senior centerfielder Ryan Taylor said. "[Susi] tries to push each guy to be the best player he can be."
In blanking the Red Raiders for the second time this season, the Cougars, who last year slumped to a 6-14 record, improved to 7-2 overall and in the National Conference.
"We worked hard all preseason for this," said senior first baseman Eric Sigovich, referring to the 5:30 a.m. workouts during an especially harsh winter. "When it came time to start the year, we were ready to go."
Against Coatesville, which last season won the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA title and advanced to the state quarterfinals, senior Dan Gittis and junior Kyle Ajjan, both southpaws, combined on a three-hitter.
East's pitching staff also includes Sigovich, an Appalachian State commit who was struck in the right cheek on a seventh-inning grounder but stayed in the game, and fellow senior Pierce Greenleaf.
"We have four aces on this team," said the 6-foot, 195-pound Sigovich. "Any pitcher we use on a given day throws strikes, gives us a chance to win."
In the third inning, the Cougars took the lead when Taylor singled to right field, stole second and third base, and scored on Nick Amicon's sacrifice fly to right field.
East clinched its latest win with a five-run, seventh-inning outburst that was highlighted by Sigovich's two-run single up the middle. The hit plated Jesse Alba (single to right-center) and Spencer Cobb (single to right).
Coatesville (3-4, 3-4) was held to three singles. "It's just frustrating," veteran Red Raiders coach Hal Ziegler said. "We're hitting too many pop-ups. And hitting is something we've worked on since January."
Junior lefty Brian Kuehn went the distance for Coatesville, allowing nine hits (all singles). The hosts committed a pair of seventh-inning errors.
Ziegler said his team has hit well behind ace lefty Brian Brown, a North Carolina State who opened the season by tossing a no-hitter, but has struggled to support its other hurlers.
Downingtown East 001 000 5-6 9 1
Coatesville 000 000 X-0 3 2
WP: Dan Gittis. LP: Bobby Kuehn.