SPRING GROVE — As is the custom after every home game, Spring Grove's players made their way to the outfield on Monday afternoon for a meeting with the coaches.
This meeting, though, would be different from all of the other ones.
It would be the final one for the team's 14 seniors.
The euphoria the players were feeling last Thursday after winning their first-ever York-Adams Tournament title was replaced with disappointment on Monday.
Red Land brought Spring Grove's highly successful season to a halt by defeating the Rockets, 5-2, in the opening round of the District 3-AAAA playoffs.
Spring Grove outhit the Patriots, 8-7, but the Rockets left eight men on base.
"I was very pleased with our approach at the plate," Spring Grove head coach Eric Zeigler said. "We hit a lot of balls hard, but unfortunately, they were right at people."
In the third inning with a runner on first base and no outs, Spring Grove's Dalton Hoiles smashed a ground ball, but Red Land shortstop Dalton Houser made a fine backhand stop and flipped the ball to second baseman Nate Chapman for a force out.
One inning later, with the bases loaded and two outs, the Rockets' Nick Spangler jumped on a pitch and lined the ball toward left field, but Patriots' left fielder Josh Snyder was right there to make the catch.
"That's baseball," Spangler said. "It was an 0-1 pitch, and I thought I hit it pretty well. You got to tip your hat to him (Red Land pitcher Zach Newmyer). He did have it at the end, and at the beginning, we were hitting him."
The Patriots' right-hander closed his complete-game performance by retiring the last seven batters he faced. Newmyer's teammates gave him a cushion by scoring four runs in their first at bat.
Spring Grove answered with its two runs in the bottom of the first by packaging three straight hits — Devon Fisher's leadoff single, Spangler's booming triple to right-center field and Hoiles' double, which carried over the center-fielder's head.
Red Land, which is a much better team than its No. 12 seed, tacked on another run in the top of the second, and that was it for the scoring.
Spangler, who came on in relief in the top of the first with one out, pitched extremely well, giving up just one run. The senior right-hander struck out four and walked three. Spangler retired 10 batters in a row at one point. He also collected two hits in his final game in a Rockets' uniform.
"There are a lot of great memories this team gave me, and I gave them," said Spangler who will play college baseball at Shippensburg University. "We were the first team in Spring Grove history to win the York-Adams Tournament, and we won the Division I title two straight years. We all get along. We have team dinners, and team lunches when we have a half-day of school."
Hoiles, who will also play at Shippensburg next year, will, like Spangler, miss being with his teammates, on and off the field.
"I love this group of guys," Hoiles said. "We play good together. We were meant to play with each other."
Zeigler became emotional when talking about the seniors.
"I've coached a lot of great teams and great players, but this group collectively are the finest young men I've been blessed to coach," he said. "They undoubtedly put us on the map. I hurt for these kids."
Spring Grove, which entered the tournament as the No. 5-seeded team, ended the season at 15-7.
— Dick VanOlinda covers high school sports for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.