East Edges Downingtown

Posted: April 09, 1992

West Chester East pitcher Brandan Kahnell is starting to make a name for

himself.

That isn't an easy task on a pitching staff that includes John Leith, the area's top pitcher.

In fact, four major-league scouts were on hand Tuesday to see Leith and the Vikings top visiting Downingtown, 4-3, in the Ches-Mont League opener for both teams.

The scouts didn't stick around to the end, but if they had, they would have seen a very impressive performance by Kahnell. The junior entered the game in relief of Leith with two outs in the top of the fifth, his team down, 3-0, and men on first and second.

"I was very impressed with that little lefty," Downingtown coach Carl Houp said of Kahnell. "That was the first time we've ever seen him, and he really popped the ball."

Kahnell didn't allow a Downingtown runner the rest of the way and recorded 4 strikeouts.

"I was just trying to throw strikes and make them hit the ball," Kahnell said. "I figured John would go the whole way, but when they got a few runs off him, I started to get myself ready."

Leith and Kahnell have become a formidable duo this season. In East's first two games, the two combined for no-hitters. In its third game, East lost to Hill School.

Tuesday, Downingtown scored all three of its runs in the top of the fifth. Todd DiFonzo brought home the first two with a one-out single. After a grounder for the second out, designated hitter Jeff Knoll hit a grounder to Kahnell, who was playing first base at the time. Kahnell threw to Leith, who was covering first, for what appeared to be the third out.

But the umpire ruled that Leith missed the bag. Knoll was safe, and DiFonzo advanced to second. Brian Wood followed with a single and the Whippets led, 3-0.

In the bottom of the fifth, a walk, an error and a wild pitch put Vikings at second and third with one out. Leith was the batter, and Downingtown pitcher Jim Bardwell quickly got two strikes on him. Next came a low and away pitch that Leith swung at and missed. At least that's what everyone thought, including Leith, who started running to first after the ball got past the catcher.

However, the umpire said there was no swing. While Leith ran to first, the catcher retrieved the ball and threw to first, thinking Leith was a live runner. On the throw, Kahnell scored on what has to be one of the most bizarre steals in area baseball history.

The Downingtown lead was now 3-1.

In the sixth, the first two East batters walked and Mike Fox dropped down a nice sacrifice bunt to advance them to second and third. Dave Crowthers followed with a single to tie the score, 3-3. Kahnell followed with an infield single, and an error drove in Crowthers with the winning run.

*

Also in the Ches-Mont Tuesday, Coatesville held off West Chester Henderson, 10-9, in the league opener for both teams.

For the Red Raiders, Rob Walton had 2 hits, including a home run, and 4 RBIs; Steve Shockites had 3 hits and an RBI and Tim Griffiths, Marc Primanti and Matt Levan had 2 hits apiece.

J.R. Owen had 2 hits and a bases-empty home run for Henderson.

On Monday, there was a full slate of Southern Chester County League games. Avon Grove edged Bishop Shanahan, 6-5; Oxford topped Kennett, 6-1; and Garnet Valley beat Unionville, 7-3.

Avon Grove and Octorara (which was idle Monday) are atop the league standings with 2-0 records, followed by Oxford (2-1).

In Avon Grove's win, staff ace John Nalepa went the distance, allowing nine hits and striking out 8 for the win. Jeff Call, Chad Shortlidge, Mark Brooke and James Carey each had 2 hits for the Red Devils.

For Oxford, Kevin Maitre picked up the win, as he went 6 innings and struck out 5 and did not allow an earned run.

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