PINE GROVE - Brett Kinneman strolled to the plate at Pine Grove's Walter Stump Stadium with West York's PIAA hopes riding on his shoulders.
Kinneman had runners at second and third in the bottom of the seventh inning. He knew a fly ball would tie the Bulldogs' PIAA Class AAA semifinal against District 2 champion Abington Heights.
The lefty went down 0-2 and laced a foul ball the opposite way down the line in left. That shot seemed inconsequential after he fouled off a fourth pitch, but on the fifth offering he flared a ball toward the gap in left-center.
Kinneman figured when the ball left his bat that he at least tied the game, however the foul ball he hit moved Comets left fielder Brad Smertz toward the foul line just enough.
Smertz' dive came up short as pinch runner Evan Zinn scored the tying run, and courtesy runner Sam Eyler ran across with the winning run.
Because of it, West York will head to its second straight PIAA championship game after a wild 5-4 walk-off victory.
The Bulldogs (20-8) will face District 1 runner-up Upper Moreland, a 3-1 winner over Keystone Oaks in Tuesday's other semifinal, in Friday's 1 p.m. championship game at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"I was seeing the ball well and with a two-strike count I was just trying to hit the ball the opposite way and stay alive, hit something in the outfield," Kinneman said.
West York coach Roger Czerwinski sprinted down the third base line and pointed to the huge following of Bulldogs fans in the stands.
"Maybe I live in the moment vicariously through our kids," Czerwinski said. "But the kids deserve me to be excited every now and then. I am so proud of the way they have hustled and battled. I think it's a quiet confidence.
"Even if we don't score there I am so proud of them, the way they represent the school."
Now the defending champs have the chance to win a second consecutive state title.
"We've done a great job all year coming back," Kinneman said. "All the state games we have been tied and nothing is going our way. We keep battling and it's all falling into place. This is special."
The Comets (14-6) took a 4-3 lead with a run in the top of the seventh on a Josh Slocum single. With one out in the bottom of the frame, Logan Stover went down 0-2 before working a walk and Zinn came in to run for him.
Zinn went to second on one wild pitch and third on another as catcher Cole Bixler walked. Eyler entered and stole second uncontested. Czerwinski said he considered a squeeze bunt attempt to tie the game, but Kinneman would have no part in it.
Abington Heights scored twice in the second inning and once more in the fourth, taking a 3-0 lead, the first deficit the Bulldogs have faced this PIAA tournament.
However down three, Bixler led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. One out later, Carson Fries hit a double to the gap in right-center and although Eyler looked to be out at the plate, his slide jarred the ball out of catcher Scott Salmon's glove and West York was on the board.
Pinch hitter Nick Traettino followed with a single sending pinch runner Eric Zearfoss to third. Traettino stole second and one out later Brandon Rauhauser ripped a single up the middle that tied the game.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," Rauhauser said. "I've been struggling all year long and I was thinking this is my opportunity. I am a senior I've got to come up big here and I delivered."
Fries earned his third straight PIAA win in relief of starter Joey Prego, who pitched well in 6Ð innings.
"Big credit to Brandon Rauhauser, he's been struggling, but that was a huge hit," Kinneman said. "Joey threw a great job throwing 6Ð and Joey has down a great job nailing it down all postseason."
"I've been saying all along if it ain't broke don't fix it. We are getting wins," Rauhauser said. "Everybody is contributing. Nick comes off bench with a big hit. Stover struggles all day and gets on base. We just fight. Nobody expected us to get back to Penn State and we did."
It took six innings for the Bulldogs to get to Comet starter Dave Manasek, whose threw sidearm, over-the-top and submarine at any time in his 133-pitch complete game.
"He had three arm angles and throws every pitch from each arm angle. That is impressive. His ball ... was moving every angle," Czerwinski said. "To have Brett (come through) as a sophomore, I went up to him and asked if he wanted to squeeze, he was like, 'No way.'"
Not when there was history to be made.