MOUNT WOLF – Every team that entered this year's Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament had dreams of playing on the event's final day.
Doing so would mean that those teams outlasted at least 12 other squads that competed in the 16-team field.
But there's a difference between simply playing on Labor Day and walking away as the tournament champion.
Just ask Central League and York County champion Glen Rock and Central League runner-up Mount Wolf. Both clubs were in contention heading into the holiday. Neither side, however, could muster a way to get pest a pesky Burlington outfit, which ended both teams' seasons on Monday.
The New Jersey squad eliminated "The Rock," a club looking to finish the local baseball grand slam by winning league regular-season and playoff titles, along with the York County and Kerrigan crowns, by a 7-6 margin on an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning. Hours later, Burlington did it again, knocking off the Wolves 3-2 to advance to the tournament's final against the Susquehanna Assault.
The Mets, who also knocked off Susquehanna League playoff champion Conrads in the first round on Saturday, were unable to keep up their hot play against the three-time defending champions. Holding a 1-0 lead into the eighth, the Assault came up with two runs in its final at-bat to claim its fourth consecutive Kerrigan crown, 2-1.
Conrads: The boys from New Bridgeville spent much of the Susquehanna League season lagging behind eventual champion Jacobus, East Prospect and Hallam. But Chad Kennell's gang hit its stride in July and rode that all the way to the playoff championship finals, where it downed East Prospect.
Their streak of hot play, however, didn't immediately translate in the Kerrigan Tournament. Burlington pounded Kennell's club, 10-3, sending it into the losers' bracket.
"We ran up against Burlington and boy do they hit," Kennell said. "They're still here (in the final) so that tells you what they're made of. That's the way it goes."
A 10-0 victory over an over-matched Centre County squad extended Conrads' season another game, but the run came to an end Sunday after an 8-2 setback vs. Lehigh Valley.
"Centre County was pretty tired, they were done," Kennell said. "But then we ran into a team — Lehigh Valley — that hit the ball."
One issue that plagued teams from the Susquehanna League was participation from players on the league's non-qualifying clubs. Players from East Prospect apparently did not make themselves eligible, while Hallam opted to take its own team into the tournament. Thus, two of the best teams that Kennell's club could have selected players from were off the table.
"We didn't (pick up) too many guys," Kennell said. "A lot of other guys didn't want to play, so we weren't that strong. Our league basically sent three teams that were half-decent, which (I feel) is wrong. But you can't blame Hallam for putting a team in it because they wanted to play ball, but at the same time we're sending three mediocre teams. We're not going to compete and that's just the way it is."
Mount Wolf: The Wolves got to the winners' bracket final with three victories to begin the tournament, downing Centre County, 8-1, before knocking off Staten Island, 5-3. That set up a showdown with Glen Rock, which had dominated Mount Wolf. But playing on their home field in front of a nice crowd helped the Wolves claim a 5-0 triumph behind the pitching of Dan Dierdorff, who was celebrating his 25th birthday.
"We came up on Sunday morning having to face Dan Dierdorff right off the bat," Glen Rock's Matt Gonzalez said. "So that was tough. (Dierdorff) kind of quieted down our bats quite a bit."
But a 6-1 loss to the Assault dropped the home team into the losers' bracket, where it was subsequently eliminated by Burlington.
"It would have been nice to play Glen Rock (again) since it would have meant having two York County teams in it," Dierdorff said.
While Dierdorff's club was the last local team to play in the event, it did little to take the sting away from his team's third-place finish.
"It's like we're a guy that's sitting there watching the guy dance with the girl that we wanted to take to the dance," Dierdorff said. "That's what (watching the final) feels like. So I'm probably going to leave here as soon as we're done because I don't want to watch either of these two teams win."
Glen Rock: The York County champions defeated Cly, 9-1, and the New York Hawks, 6-3, Saturday. But then they ran up against Dierdorff, who struck out eight in a complete-game effort.
They rallied back to claim a 6-5 triumph to eliminate Staten Island Sunday before facing Burlington late Sunday night, a game that was eventually suspended and completed Monday.
"The Rock" trailed 4-3 after four innings but was able to forge a 6-6 tie heading into the seventh. But the Mets scored the winning run with a walk-off single to officially end Glen Rock's impressive campaign.
While it didn't result in the fourth-and-final piece of hardware that they sought, Gonzalez and company were nevertheless satisfied.
"Every single guy on the roster contributed," Gonzalez said. "But we just came up a little short."
While the Glen Rock roster is filled with quality players, Gonzalez and his teammates felt — much like Conrads and Kennell — that they weren't given a chance to bolster their roster with as many quality pick-ups as they wanted.
"I'm not going to name names and call anybody out there, but it's extremely disappointing," Gonzalez said. "It's a chance to represent your league. It's hard enough getting two teams in and getting enough guys. We definitely lost some quality pitching or we could have picked up more outfielders or whatever we needed. I mean, you play in the Central League all year long and if you don't get to make it with your own team, you should be there as a pick-up to represent your league."
Gonzalez is probably one of the most qualified guys to speak of the pick-up system, in which both the regular-season winner (Glen Rock) and the playoff winner or runner-up (Mount Wolf) could take turns selecting eligible players to add to their rosters. Arguably one of the most successful pitchers during his Kerrigan runs (at least two Most Outstanding Pitcher awards), Gonzalez also pointed out another benefit of suiting up to battle along one-time rivals.
"I've built a lot of close friendships from playing with other teams in the Colonial," he said. "A lot of the Glen Rock guys, Jefferson guys and Mount Wolf guys are all very good friends. We're all pretty much the same age and we all hang out in the offseason."
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.