Dallastown third baseman Tye Golden knew it was an out.
Starting pitcher Riley Hamberger was all the way to the third-base line before turning back around to the mound in disbelief. The rest of the Wildcats' fielders weren't too far behind, thinking they had just escaped the biggest jam of the game.
Except, the only person on the field who didn't think that Cedar Cliff's Bobby Whalen was out was the umpire. Ultimately, it was only his opinion that mattered.
Clutching a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning of Tuesday's District 3-AAAA first-round baseball game, Hamberger found himself in a two-out jam. With runners on first and third, he needed one out to escape with his team still in the lead. With Julian Bury trying to steal second, Dallastown catcher Bryant Holtzapple faked a throw to second. Holtzapple then threw behind Whalen at third, It looked like he picked off Whalen to end the inning. Instead, the call went against Hamberger, Holtzapple and the rest of the Wildcats.
What ensued was a two-out walk, then a two-run single by Grant Breneman to give the Colts a 3-2 lead, followed by a two-run double by Tommy Savastio and an RBI double by Jimmy Losh. By the time Holtzapple could stop the bleeding by picking off Losh at second, the damage was done. No. 13 seed Cedar Cliff held a 6-2 advantage, one that it made hold up as the final score, eliminating the fourth-seeded Wildcats and ending their season shockingly early.
"We just talked about the fact that we've scored more than six runs in a game 15 or more times in a game this year," Dallastown head coach Greg Kinneman said about what he told his players after the Colts' fifth-inning rally. "So, my challenge to them was to find a way to get seven runs. Find a way to peck away."
Dallastown (17-4) had nine outs to accomplish that, but could never solve the dominance of Cedar Cliff (12-9) reliever Denny Snyder.
After replacing Breneman to begin the third inning, Snyder allowed just two hits over the final five innings, allowing no more than two Wildcats to reach base at any one time. The only time during his outing that Dallastown put together any semblance of a rally was in the bottom of the sixth, when it got two runners on with just one out. But, Snyder answered the call, ringing up back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat and keep the Wildcats scratching their heads.
"His velocity was a little bit better and his curve ball was a little bit sharper (than Breneman's)," Kinneman said. "That's not taking anything away from Breneman, but his fastball today was flat and his curve ball was average and that's not a knock against that kid in any way."
Whether or not it was a tactical decision on the Colts' part to pull Breneman after only two innings to save him for a possible quarterfinal game, or because he wasn't sharp, it was the right move. In his two innings of work, he allowed both runs, one in the first and one in the second.
After two innings of play, Dallastown held a 2-1 lead, thanks to an RBI from Hamberger in the first and one from Nick Parker in the second. But, once Snyder entered the game, the bats went cold for the Wildcats. Snyder finished by picking up the win, going five innings and allowing just the two hits, four walks and striking out nine.
Hamberger wound up taking the loss, escaping the fifth, but gave way to Parker for the final two frames after throwing 102 pitches, including 38 in the fifth. His final line was five innings, six runs, five earned, on six hits, three walks and six strikeouts. Parker allowed one hit over the final two innings.
Senior Eric Morrison had a two-hit game for Dallastown, the only member of the team to have a multi-hit game, or record an extra-base hit, which came on a double on the first pitch Breneman threw.
Despite the strong season for the Wildcats, which included the York-Adams League title, it was hard for Kinneman to see it as a complete success with such an abrupt ending. While the bar is raised for future teams, this year's team knew it was capable of doing much more.
"I told them I was really, super proud of them," he said. "I told our six seniors that I was super proud of them for raising the bar on our program. We're not satisfied because winning the county title is not at the top of the list of our goals. Our goal will always be to win the Class AAAA state title and, along the way, to win a Class AAAA district title. Those will always be the two goals at the top of our list and that's not going to change in our program as long as I'm here."
Palmyra 7, West York 3: At Palmyra, the home team plated five runs in the bottom of the second to take an early lead and go on to capture the District 3-AAA first-round match-up. For the Bulldogs, Tyler Seiffert and Brandon Sheffer each went 2 for 3 with one RBI. West York finished at 10-9.
Greencastle 6, Eastern York 0: At Greencastle, the top-seeded Blue Devils triumphed behind a dominant five-hit shutout from Myles Gayman, who struck out 15 and walked two to improve to 6-0 on the season. York-Adams Division III champion Eastern finished 13-8. Greencastle improved to 18-1.
Biglerville 7, Delone Catholic 6: At Biglerville, the Canners broke a 6-6 tie, when they plated the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh on a walk-off walk to capture the first-round District 3-AA victory. The Canners received one double apiece from Brock Chronister, Hunter Kime, Connor Griest and Chris Runk. For the Squires, Wes DePorter had a double, while teammate Austin Kuntz tripled. Biglerville (13-7) moves on to the quarterfinals and will visit No. 2 seed Lancaster Catholic (15-4) at 1 p.m. Thursday. Delone finished at 9-12.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org