There were many traits the Conestoga baseball team displayed this spring that allowed it to reach the PIAA Class AAAA state finals for the second time in four years.
One characteristic that stood out, especially during the state playoffs, was resiliency.
That trait was on display once again in the PIAA Class AAAA state championship game June 13 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State University, as the Pioneers battled LaSalle College High School to the bitter end before falling 4-2 in eight innings.
"It's a shame our season had to end this way,' said Conestoga head coach John Vogan. "It was not for a lack of effort or swinging at bad pitches. Give La Salle credit. We put the ball in play, but they made all the plays. They are a very good baseball team.'Adversity has been nothing new to Conestoga (20-8), the No. 3 seed from District One. In their first two state playoff contests against Cedar Cliff and Red Land, the Pioneers had to rally from early deficits to post victories and move on in the single elimination tournament."Today was the perfect example of our team,' said junior pitcher Brendon Little, who has made a verbal commitment to attend the University of North Carolina. "We have managed to find our way out of difficult situations but today we came up a little short. I am still very proud of our effort.'LaSalle (21-6), the District 12 champion, took an early 2-0 lead, thanks to runs in the first and third innings. It looked as though they would make things look easy with starter Dom Cucci keeping the Pioneers off-balance.As they have done all season, Conestoga fought their way back into the contest. In the fourth inning, the Pioneers got on the board thanks to an RBI single to right by Brandon Ruffenach that scored Steve Born, who led off the inning with a single before moving to second courtesy of a balk.
Little retired the Explorers quietly in the top of the fifth before Conestoga tied the game on an RBI single by Tom Richter that plated Ryne Ogren, who led off with a walk.
With the game tied after seven innings, Vogan had a difficult decision to make regarding Little, who had thrown 111 pitches. After seeing Little labor a bit to start the eighth, Vogan knew it was time to make the change to senior Jake Bufo, who played a key role in the team's success.
After Bufo got himself in a little bit of trouble loading the bases, Brian Buckley came up with a big bases-loaded single to plate two runs, giving the Explorers a 4-2 lead.
"I have always said that I would ruin a pitchers arm to win a game,' said Vogan. "I saw Little was laboring and knew I had to make a change. Unfortunately, things did not work out today. I have total confidence in Jake and we would not have been here without him.'
Although Conestoga is saying goodbye to many key players, they also will have a solid core returning.
Little said, "We have four returning starters along with a good sophomore class. We have been working hard and we hope to get back here next year.'