DILLSBURG — Spring Grove's baseball team got to know adversity very well this season.
The Rockets lost six, one-run games and were without their ace pitcher, Matt Brooks for six weeks of the season.
Brooks recovered from his injury in time for the District 3-AAA playoffs, and he pitched a gem in the opening round, holding West Perry to just one hit. Spring Grove took out the higher-seeded Mustangs on their home field, 7-0.
The Rockets hoped that would be the beginning of another deep playoff run, like the year before when they advanced all the way to the district championship game. A run that would, if not wipe out, at least take away quite a bit of the sting from the regular season.
Palmyra, however, refused to let that scenario unfold again.
The Cougars scored early and often to score a 10-2 victory, bringing Spring Grove's season to a close at 10-12. No. 5 seed Palmyra improved to 16-6.
"We had an up-and-down season, and things didn't go the way we hoped, but things were starting to come together at the end," Spring Grove head coach Kevin Stiffler said. "It's tough when the season ends like this, but they hit the ball well and made the plays."
The Cougars packed all of their scoring into the first three innings, striking for a single run in the first, five in the second and four in the third.
Evan Hallowell led the winners by cracking three hits and driving in five runs.
"They were all over us hitting wise," Brooks said. "We weren't ready for this (the season) to end, but it happens."
No. 13 seed Spring Grove collected nine hits, but Palmyra prevented any big innings by playing flawless defense and issuing very few walks.
Austin Piety and Trent Baker collected two hits apiece for Spring Grove, and Brooks drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
The Rockets, to their credit, kept battling to the end. During every at bat, the players in the dugout didn't sit on the bench, but instead stood behind the screen and shouted encouragement to the batter.
"It was nice to see that, even though we were down, we were in the game mentally," Brooks said. "We kept our heads up the whole year."
Stiffler choked up, at times, when talking about his players.
"This was a special group of kids. We had great seniors, and if we had sons (Stiffler and his assistants), we would want them (the sons) to be just like them (the seniors)."
Caleb Ruth and Brooks were the two seniors in the starting lineup.
"We were hoping to build this year on the success we had last year, but after Matt went out, it kind of hurt," Ruth said. "We were hoping to keep it (a playoff run) going today, but they (Palmyra) were hitting everything."
Palmyra head coach Tim Gingrich was surprised at the final score.
"I was expecting a close game," Gingrich said. "They (Spring Grove) played a lot of Quad-A schools. I thought our pitcher (Zach Yingst) did great. He kept us in the game. To get to this point, you need a strong No. 2 pitcher."
Oley Valley 12, Fairfield 1 (5 innings): At Oley, the home team scored four runs in each of the first three innings for the top-seeded Lynx (17-4) in a District 3-AA quarterfinal game. Pete Vaccaro hit a grand slam and scored three runs for Oley. The ninth-seeded Green Knights finished 11-8. Fairfield had more errors (five) than hits (three).
Lancaster Catholic 8, Biglerville 0: At Lancaster, the Canners collected eight hits, but couldn't score in the District 3-AA quarterfinal. Biglerville trailed just 2-0 before the Crusaders erupted for six runs in the fifth to put the game out of reach. Seventh-seeded Biglerville ends the season at 13-8. No. 2 seed Lancaster Catholic improved to 16-4.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.