STATE COLLEGE — Five years from now, Dallastown baseball coach Greg Kinneman told his players they won't care what color their medal is from the PIAA Class 6-A championship game.
What they'll remember is the memories from the entire season, playing in the biggest game of their lives, up to that moment, and the journey that it took to get there.
Through blurry eyes filled with tears, none of the 20 players probably believe that. All they can see at the time is that the color of their medal is silver, a product of a heartbreaking, 1-0 walk-off loss to Pennsbury on Friday night at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"Sometimes you play bad and win and sometimes you play well and lose," Kinneman said. "Most sports aren't like that. (Baseball) is probably one of the few sports that's like that. From this game, that's the take away. We didn't do anything to lose the game. We just simply are down 1-0 after seven innings and unfortunately, that's the last inning of the game."
After the Falcons (22-6) and Wildcats (23-5) played the first six and a half innings scoreless, the game, which was delayed by three hours and 29 minutes due to rain, seemed destined for extra innings.
All Dallastown had to do was get through the bottom of the seventh without allowing a run to cross and it would get an eighth chance to plate a run. Instead, with two outs and two men on base, Nick Price delivered the biggest hit of his life, blooping a single to shallow left field, which saw Justin Massielo race home from second, just beating a throw home from left fielder Sean Reding to provide the game's only — and winning — run.
Four batters prior to that, the Wildcats looked to regain some momentum on an impressive play by catcher Bryant Holtzapple. After relief pitcher Billy Bethel began the inning with a leadoff double, he was replaced by a courtesy runner, Justin Ward. Ward's time on the base paths didn't last long, as Holtzapple threw behind him to pick him off and clear the bases for Dallastown starter Alex Weakland.
"It shifted momentum, but, I think if I'm right, it was the first out of the inning, but it didn't end the inning," Holtzapple said. "It's baseball. You gotta get three outs to complete an inning. Especially in the state championship, facing a good team, you can't just let up and say, 'It's over now.'"
But, a single by Massielo and then a nice diving play by Nick Parker at third base to get the hitter out at first gave Pennsbury a runner on second base with two outs. After an intentional walk to Ryan McCarty, Price came up and delivered the game-winning hit.
It was a game that saw momentum shift to each team on a number of occasions through strong defensive plays. Both sides turned huge inning-ending double plays to thwart scoring threats, with none bigger than when Weakland weaseled his way out of a first-and-third, nobody-out jam in the bottom of the fourth. He got a lineout and then an inning-ending double play, prompting the usually level-headed Weakland to pump his fists and show some emotion.
However, for as dominant as Weakland was, his offense couldn't get him the run support needed, despite pounding out hit after hit. The Wildcats produced seven hits on the night, but stranded eight men on base, something the team rarely did this season.
"I remember Bryant's at-bat," Golden said. "He came up with two outs and lined one out to center. It was a good piece on a curveball, but it's not like we couldn't hit their curveball or fastball. They got us out. That's just the way it goes."
Fortunately for Dallastown, Weakland pitched another gem, which he's done throughout the entire season. He carried a perfect game into the fourth before he hit a batter and took a no-hitter into the fifth. He faced one batter over the minimum heading into the seventh inning, but, despite having a relatively low pitch count heading into the seventh, started to run out of gas and finished an out short of getting his team into extra innings.
"I think he loves playing the game and has a lot of fun playing the game," Kinneman said about Weakland. "For him, it's about another day at the ballpark. He's going to go out and do what he does. He's going to go out and compete and he's going to go out and give us everything he possibly has."
The win for the Falcons was the program's first state title, while the Wildcats are still searching for their first.
Even with the defeat, Dallastown capped a year where it won 20 consecutive games, defended its York-Adams League crown, won the program's first ever District 3 championship and advanced further in the state tournament than any team had before it."
"It's a fun game and you can tell how much we wanted it," Golden said. "The game doesn't go our way and that's it."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com