RED LION — The Dallastown baseball team has lived by the motto "Finish" all season long.
It was a slogan coined in response to last year's club that, following a strong regular season, bowed out in the first round of the District 3 tournament.
It also has several other layers to it, however, and isn't just about finishing off a win. It goes down to the smallest of things, such as individual at-bats or innings.
What this Dallastown team has done with the motto of late, however, is finish off opponents when given the chance.
In Monday's PIAA Class 6-A first-round game against Hatboro-Horsham, it took a little longer than usual for the Wildcats to put away the Hatters, but they still got it done, erupting for five runs in the sixth inning to cruise to an 8-1 win at Red Lion's Horn Field to advance to Thursday's quarterfinal round. The win improved Dallastown to 21-4 on the year and was the team's 18th win in a row.
"The 'Finish' across the shirts goes down to the smallest things, like finishing off an at-bat or a pitcher finishing off a hitter," Wildcats' head coach Greg Kinneman said. "But, obviously, it also gets larger, like finishing off a game and for us, right now, it's about finishing off a season."
Key frame: Dallastown entered the bottom of the sixth inning with a 3-1 lead, but it didn't want to try to close out the game with an advantage that Hatboro-Horsham could still easily erase. While it was the top-of-the-order players who got all the shine for breaking the game open, the big inning started with the bottom of the order.
Tracy Carr singled with one out to get things going. That was followed by a pair of walks to the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters, Zach Ness and Sean Reding, loading the bases as the lineup turned over. It didn't take long for leadoff man Tye Golden to put the final stake in the Hatters, doubling home two runs to make it a 5-1 game and chasing Hatboro-Horsham starter Bryan Edgington. Nick Parker continued the onslaught with a stand-up, two-run triple to make it 7-1 and Joe Capobianco finished things with a triple of his own, scoring courtesy runner Jake Gates to push the lead to 8-1. All told, Edgington, a St. Joe's University commit, was tagged for seven earned runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
"That's our job," Carr said about being part of a bottom of the order that looks to turn over the lineup for the top. "We look for our jobs and we just look to turn over our lineup to, I guess, the leadoff guy to keep it going."
Parker excels: Even before the Wildcats exploded for the five-run inning, the game seemed to be in good hands with Parker on the mound. All the inning did was shore up things.
Parker went out and finished off his complete-game performance, retiring the side in the seventh to close out the win by getting out the final 15 batters he faced. It was all part of a two-hit gem that only got better as the game progressed.
Parker didn't have his best command to begin the contest, allowing a leadoff double to start the game. After an error put Dallastown in a first-and-third situation with nobody out, Parker minimized the damage, allowing just one run on a sacrifice fly, giving the Hatters a quick 1-0 lead.
Hatboro-Horsham again led off the second with a double, but Parker worked around that one and, after walking the leadoff guy in the third, he didn't allow a base runner the rest of the game.
"We kind of changed our approach early," Parker said about his game plan with catcher Bryant Holtzapple. "We started pitching a little more backwards. They were ultra-aggressive early and leaving a couple fastballs over the middle of the plate is never a good thing."
Offense wakes up: As soon as Parker settled in to close out the top half of the third, that's when the offense woke up for the Wildcats. Reding led off the bottom half of the frame with a single and later scored on a Holtzapple single. Mixed in between was a walk to Golden and, after advancing to third on the Holtzapple single, Golden scored by stealing home after a great bit of base running by Holtzapple, who got in a rundown between first and second long enough to allow Golden to score, putting Dallastown ahead, 2-1.
Holtzapple put his base running on display again in the bottom of the fifth when he started a two-out rally with a single and then advanced into scoring position on a pitch in the dirt. He was brought home by Capobianco to make it 3-1.
Golden, Parker and Capobianco each drove in two runs for the Wildcats, while Reding and Golden each had two runs scored.
First time in quarterfinals: With the win, Dallastown advances to the state quarterfinals, another program first after capturing the program's first district gold medal last week.
"It's absolutely special," Kinneman said about making it to the quarterfinals. "But, not only is it special for the players, but the other thing is, and I think you could see that today, but we rallied the whole community behind us and the Dallastown community has been phenomenal."
The Wildcats will face St. Joe's Prep in Thursday's quarterfinals, after Prep defeated North Penn, 3-1. The site and time for that game has yet to be determined.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.