Avon Grove manages to 'R15E ABOVE'

Elliot Forde visited close friend Zach Trexler, still recovering from head injuries suffered in a serious car accident five months ago, at Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital last weekend.

"It was pretty emotional," Forde said. "I talked to him about all that was going on with the baseball team. It was tough to see him in the condition he's in, but I'm glad I went."

Zach Trexler

Avon Grove, in southern Chester County, dedicated this season to Trexler, who was a catcher and utility outfielder for the Red Devils.

"It's brought the whole community together," said Forde, a shortstop and senior captain.

In mid-December, the car that Trexler and fellow Avon Grove senior Megan Whitman were in skidded on a snowy road and struck a utility pole. Both were rushed to Christiana Hospital.

Trexler continues to undergo intensive therapy at Bryn Mawr Rehab. Whitman was released last week from the same facility and is recovering at home.

Before each game, Avon Grove hangs Trexler's No. 15 jersey in its dugout. Hundreds of T-shirts, designed by Forde, have been sold to aid Zach's parents, Todd and Cheryl Trexler, with medical expenses.

Other fund-raising efforts have included a bingo night, a pancake breakfast, and a sale of wristbands.

"It's been a hard thing to experience, but the way the community has rallied around this cause has been a great thing to see," Red Devils coach Dave Whitcraft said.

As junior-varsity coach two years ago, Whitcraft worked with Trexler. "He's a tremendously coachable kid," Whitcraft said. "He always wanted to know what things he could do to become a better player."

Joe Thompson, a lefthanded pitcher and leftfielder, lives just three houses away from the Trexlers in Landenberg.

"He's kind of been like our 10th man this season," the senior said. "He always gave us 100 percent on the field, so we want to do the same for him."

Forde's father, a firefighter, was part of the emergency crew that aided Trexler and Whitman after the accident.

Of the baseball- and music-loving Trexler, Elliot Forde said: "You can feel his energy, get the sense that he's with us during games. That makes you want to play even harder."

On the backs of T-shirts designed by Forde, incorporating Trexler's jersey number, are the words "R15E ABOVE," with "Z.T." below.

Todd and Cheryl Trexler graciously declined an invitation to attend a senior-day game earlier this month.

"They said it would be too emotional for them at this point to be there," Whitcraft said.

Avon Grove, with nine seniors, fared well this season, going 13-9. Bouncing back from a 5-14 campaign, the Red Devils went 12-7 in the Ches-Mont League National Conference and qualified for districts for the first time since 2009 before falling, 7-6, to Spring-Ford on Wednesday in the second round of the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA playoffs.

Said Whitcraft, who coached the team for seven years in the 1990s: "Beginning with optional workouts in November, the guys really committed themselves to being successful."

The pitching staff was headed by Thompson, who is bound for Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., and senior righthanders Johnny D'Aquanno and Eric Ligda. Ligda, a Millersville recruit, returned after being shut down because of elbow tendinitis.

The spark plugs on offense included Forde, a West Grove resident ticketed for Misericordia; D'Aquanno, who doubles as a third baseman; sophomore catcher Ryan Guckin; and junior rightfielder Tyler Bonner.