Cedar Crest captured its second District Three Class AAAA crown in the past three years with an 8-2 win over Penn Manor at Sovereign Bank Stadium.
Senior Zach Hostetter crushed a tone-setting two-run bomb in the first, and the Falcons removed any doubts with a five-run fifth. On the hill, right-hander Dan Black struck out 11 in seven innings to remain undefeated on the season.
"The boys are just playing great, there's no other way around it. The kids are having fun and stepping up at the right time," manager Chris Groff said. "Part of me is speechless just 'cause we're playing so well. I just feel so good for these seniors and for the team. It's a great group of guys."
The upstart Comets, seeded 13th, came ready to play, touching Black for a run in the top of the first. The visitors used Brandon Stone's leadoff walk, an error and Brandon Bowers' base hit for an early 1-0 edge. Fortunately, Hostetter answered in a big way in the bottom half.
"In high school baseball, it's kind of like that slam dunk or 3-pointer in basketball. It gets you so fired up," explained Groff, moments after being doused in ice water. "You hear the guys; it was a roar. There's nothing that builds bigger momentum than a kid stepping up and doing that. That was just huge."
After fouling off Joe Witmer's first offering, Hostetter drilled a fastball over the Bobcat of York billboard in left field for a 2-1 lead. Garrett Getz also scored on the play following a feisty one-out walk. The home run was the first of the season for Hostetter, who smashed eight long balls as a junior.
"In the past, especially in the last game, I was trying to do too much. I didn't have a home run all year long," Hostetter said. "This game I was just trying to work the middle
Zach Smith, the other half of the Falcons' Zach-attack committed to Mount St. Mary's, made it a 3-1 game in the third with a slicing two-out triple to right field. Hostetter scored the eventual game-winning run from first on the play, which also signaled the end of the line for Witmer. The right-hander was saddled with the loss, allowing three runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Penn Manor's last stand came in the fourth when Tim Harris cut the deficit to 3-2 with an RBI double. Black, however, whiffed seven of the next 12 batters. The Virginia Commonwealth recruit did not allow a hit over the final 3 2/3 frames.
"When Dan trusts his stuff and throws that hard fastball, he's a very good pitcher," added Groff. "The difference with the curveball after the first two innings was that he got it down. When he's cooking with that curveball, he's a tough pitcher with his velocity."
Still 3-2, Crest exploded for five runs in the fifth.
Smith and Daulton Ritter started the rally by reaching on back-to-back Comet miscues. Logan Fullmer followed with an RBI single to left field, and Josh Hammaker added another run-scoring hit up the middle for a 5-2 advantage. Next, Collin Miller smacked a two-run double to left before leadoff man Galen Rader closed out the scoring with an RBI knock to center.
"We knew coming in
The Falcons (21-4) have now scored multiple runs in five of their past 10 innings, including three in Wednesday's 15-2 semifinal victory over Central Dauphin.
"We're hitting the ball as well as we have all season," Groff said. "When you add this offense that's now clicking with our pitching and fielding, we're a very strong team."
But stronger then the 2010 district title team?
"My sophomore year I got to play with (Kyle) Redinger and Ryan Cannistraci - they're both phenomenal players," said Hostetter, who also hit a clutch bomb during the district run two years ago. "Last year, we had (Derek) Fisher, probably one of the best players ever to come out of Cedar Crest. He was absolutely phenomenal, too.
"They really set the pace for us and started us out. They set the expectations high coming into this year with 10 seniors. We just wanted to better and one-up everybody else, and that's what we did."
The Falcons' season continues Monday in the first round of the PIAA state playoffs against an opponent yet to be determined (the fifth seed from District One).