PUNXSUTAWNEY — Not giving anything away at the plate, the Bishop McCort Crimson Crushers were a handful for the Brookville Raiders in Monday’s PIAA Class AA baseball semifinals at Kuntz Field.
With six runs and 10 hits in the first three innings off Raiders starter Ben Reitz, the Crimson Crushers’ 10-3 win earned a rematch with Neuman Goretti in Friday’s final at Penn State University’s Medlar Field.
Last year, Bishop McCort dropped a 3-0 decision to the District 12 power. Goretti advanced to defend its title with a 10-9 win over District 6 runner-up Bellwood-Antis.
“One of my biggest worries throughout the last six weeks was as quickly as you work to get to that point, it can evaporate that quickly,” said Raiders head coach Bruce Ferry, whose team’s six-game winning streak, five coming in the postseason, came to an end. “Just what we talked about us not wanting to do, one error between two, one between four and it was tough to overcome.”
Reitz worked ahead in many early at-bats, but McCort’s lineup was stubborn and banged the ball all over the park with four doubles along with well-placed soft singles the first three innings. Doubles by Anthony Cacciotti and Boston Bradley, followed by a single from Cameron Bunn gave the Crushers a 2-0 lead in the second.
Then the Crushers greeted Reitz with five hits in six at-bats to start the third for four more runs, including another double by Cacciotti.
“We just could not put them away with two strikes,” Ferry said. “Ben is usually a strikeout guy who mixes speeds up and we could not (put them away). Credit to them with good at-bats, fouling off good pitches … we just couldn’t finish people with two strikes early today and it was tough sledding.”
Aaron Park relieved Reitz in the fourth and walked three batters and hit two others in the first six plate appearances. The Crushers added two more runs and led 8-0 before Park settled down and retired eight of the last 10 batters he faced. Bryan Dworek threw the seventh and gave up two more runs.
In the end, McCort had 14 hits and took advantage of four Raiders errors that led to three unearned runs.
For the Raiders, they had just six hits which hampered their ability to get into or stay in the game. They wound up stranding 13 runners against McCort pitchers Brenden Lavely and Brett Seitz.
Crushers manager Chris Pfeil pulled starter Lavely after 3 1/3 innings. He had allowed just one hit with three walks. Seitz, the team’s leader in innings pitched, scuffled through 3 2/3 innings to get the win, although he gave up five hits, hit Tyler Park three times and walked three. The Raiders weren’t able to get much of any clutch hitting off either pitcher.
“We had them loaded in the second, two on third, loaded in fourth and just couldn’t get anything going,” Ferry said. “A couple of plays and hits, it’s a different game, but we have a lot of young kids and it was a learning experience for them to realize that. But it so hard to get back to this point all the time, but hopefully they’ll have a chance to learn from it in the future.”
Singles by Seth Dunkle and Aaron Park in the fifth set up Ben Caun’s two-out double down the third-base line for the Raiders’ first run.
In the seventh, Aaron Park walked, Reitz singled, Caun walked and Tyler Park was hit by Seitz for the third time to push in a run and Brady Caylor’s sacrifice fly gave the Raider their third and final run of the game.
It wasn’t enough to make McCort nervous, but it was a response to a mid-game huddle by Ferry with his team. It didn’t produce a game-winning comeback, but finished the game better than it started.
“We hadn’t faced a whole lot of adversity where things went poorly for us for awhile and all of a sudden they did there and you could tell by their appearance that it was going to get away from us I thought,” Ferry said. “I tried to bring them back to do what we were doing and we had a couple of innings where I thought we could get it back and we didn’t.”
While McCort advances with a 19-7 record and a chance to avenge last year’s final loss, the Raiders go home with a satisfying 14-12 mark. They were 9-11 going into the postseason and just lose two seniors.
“I’m proud of the kids, all of them,” Ferry said. “You see how many people are here? They’re getting autographs over there. It’s cool to see a group of these kids with the two seniors and a dedicated group of coaches to help make baseball relevant again and that’s cool to be a part of. It’s not fun to lose like today, but it’s a winning record, the first in a long time and a district championship. It was fun.”