West Chester Henderson rallies late to earn first PIAA District 1 baseball title

Henderson’s Justen Lucas holds the championship trophy with teammates after beating Marple Newtown, 3-1, in eight innings to win the PIAA District 1 Class 5A baseball championship in Plymouth Meeting, Tuesday May 29, 2018

Marple Newtown’s Luke Zimmerman quieted West Chester Henderson’s bats through six innings, allowing only one single and fanning seven.

Thomas Caufield then surprised the lefthanded ace with a perfectly placed bunt down the first-base line to start the seventh. He stole second base, moved to third on James Vito’s single, and forged a tie on a Shane Angle’s late suicide-squeeze bunt.

The Warriors added two more runs in the eighth and stunned the Tigers, 3-1, to capture the PIAA District 1 Class 5A title Tuesday afternoon at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth

With Marple Newtown nursing a 1-0 lead, Caufield said he made the decision to lead off the seventh with a drag bunt.

“[Zimmerman] was pitching a great game, so I wanted to try something different,” the senior shortstop said. “I saw the first baseman playing back.”

Henderson’s late comeback produced the program’s first district championship. Luke McNichol’s squad was runner-up to Council Rock North in Class 4A in 2010 and Conestoga in Class 3A in 2010.

McNichol has been in charge of the Warriors for 31 seasons. A 34-year math teacher at Henderson, he guided the squad to a Class 4A state crown in 2010.

“This was a total team effort,” said McNichol, just before his players dumped a cooler filled with ice cold water over his head. “I’m real happy for the kids, especially the seniors.”

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Henderson baseball head coach Luke McNichol gets ice water dumped on him by his players after beating Marple Newtown, 3-1, in eight innings for the PIAA District 1 Class 5A baseball championship on Tuesday.

Against Marple Newtown reliever Alden Mathes, No. 9 batter Brendan Gray reached safely on an error with one out in the eighth. He stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Leadoff man Ian Tracy’s high chopper over the third baseman was the winning hit. Caufield followed with a single to left field and scored from first on a grounder to shortstop that resulted in two errors.

Caufield, a four-year starter who is bound for North Carolina, gained redemption after grounding out to third in the first and whiffing in the fourth.

Caufield’s sophomore brother, Casey, is a second baseman for the Warriors (16-8). Another brother, Eddie, was a manager for the team from 2012 to 2015 and serves in the same role at Penn State-Brandywine.

The Tigers (21-2) went in front, 1-0, in the third on Zimmerman’s one-out sacrifice fly.

Henderson’s Justen Lucas replaced struggling starter Brady Bash in the third and held the defending district champs to four single in 4 1/3 innings. Evan Spano retired the last four batters to gain the win.

West Chester Henderson  00000012- 3 6 1

Marple Newtown             00100000- 1 4 3

WP: Evan Spano. LP: Alden Mathes