PUNXSUTAWNEY — For two teams sporting the same 11-8 record and coming off 17-run offensive explosions in their district title wins last week, something was going to have to break differently Wednesday afternoon at Rich Kuntz Field.
And after a 75-minute delay and remarkable field work that allowed Brookville and Bedford get on the field for the District 5/9 Sub-Regional baseball final, it was the D5 champion Bisons who punched their ticket to states with a 6-3 win over the Raiders.
A four-run third inning was the key for the Bisons, who advanced to Monday’s matchup with WPIAL runner-up Hopewell and were eliminated with a 9-3 loss.
Meanwhile, the Raiders finished up 11-9. They were able to make things a little interesting late by getting the tying run to the plate before their rally died.
“It’s been the story of the season all year. It’s the situational hitting and pushing guys across and we left a ton of guys on base this season. We have to work on that for next season,” Raiders head coach Nathan Bonfardine said. “I’m excited for next season. We’re losing four seniors, but we’re gaining some good kids and players. The sky is the limit for next year for sure.”
While Bedford’s third inning allowed for the separation, it was senior left-handed pitcher Dylan Arnold who set the tone. He was the final pitcher who was able to quiet things down in the Bisons’ 17-12 win over Chestnut Ridge in the D5 final.
He scattered four hits with four walks and three strikeouts on 72 pitches.
The Raiders’ lone run, an unearned one, off Arnold came in the fourth when Park singled and raced to third when rightfielder David Gresh misplayed the one-hopper that got by him. Brady Caylor then singled him in.
“That’s a continuation of what Dylan did last week against Chestnut Ridge,” Bisons coach Adam Arnold said. “He came in and shut it down. He was the stalwart the last three innings and got us the victory. He kept us close and whenever we got the lead, he was the one to shut it down. There’s no one else I’m going to turn to. The senior leadership, he’s been doing it and he’s a three-sport athlete and now a three-sport district champion.”
Park’s single in the fourth was the Raiders’ first hit of the game. Walks to Cole LaBenne and Dane Lyle in the first three innings were the team’s only baserunners.
“It was tough to corral their pitcher. It seemed like anything he threw up there, we couldn’t square up and when we did, it was right to a guy,” Bonfardine said. “We just needed to do a better job hitting the baseball and some situational hitting, we need to be able to move him over and push runs across. Our bats weren’t alive tonight … They barreled the ball and did a good job in the third inning. We couldn’t really recover from that.”
Meanwhile, the Bisons went at the Raiders’ ace Park and sent eight batters to the plate in the third for their first four runs. Almost every one of their six hits off Park in six innings went to right field.
“That’s the approach you have to have against a plus kid. Aaron is a plus-pitcher,” Coach Arnold said. “The kids play the game the right way and play hard and they’ll do anything we ask them to do. I can’t ask for anything more than that.”
With one out in the top of the third, Drew Hall worked Park for a walk. Jared Dowey singled and Nate Semanek doubled home Hall and Dowey to third. After Dylan Arnold walked, Dowey scored on a wild pitch.
“Before the game, we were told to stay back and take it to right field and not to try to do too much,” said Dowey, who along with Semanek led the Bisons offense with two hits apiece. “We were very confident coming in today. We thought we had a good shot of doing what we had last game.”
Then with two outs, Jesse Arnold singled home Semanek and Dylan Arnold for the 4-0 lead.
Bedford tacked on two more runs in the fourth. Mercury Swaim singled with one out and came around to score when Hall’s sacrifice bunt was misplayed by Park, who threw the ball away down the right-field line. Dowey’s groundout to second pushed home Hall, who raced to third when the throw home to get Hall got away.
Park walked two and struck out two in his 90-pitch outing. Lyle threw a scoreless seventh inning.
“They did their homework and realized who they were coming up against,” Bonfardine said of Bedford’s hitting approach. “He was sitting anywhere from 83-85 mph. That may or may not have been the fastest they’ve seen, but they did a nice job putting the ball into play and making us earn it.”
In the fifth, the Raiders had runners on first and second with one out. Seth Dunkle singled to left and leftfielder Dodge Bebout gunned down Chase Palmer, who was waved home despite the Raiders trailing by five runs.
“Whenever I sent him, the ball was still in the outfield and it was a heckuva throw from the outfielder. It was right on the money,” Bonfardine said. “I don’t necessarily agree with the call, but you have to live and learn with that. You have to overcome some of the obstacles too.”
Dowey replaced Arnold on the mound the final two innings. The Raiders loaded the bases with one out, but Dowey got Park on a forceout grounder to shortstop that scored a run before Caylor singled home Lyle to get the Raiders within 6-3.
But Dowey got Tanner LaBenne to ground out to Jesse Arnold at first base, sealing the win.