STATE COLLEGE - Each national anthem for the last five West York baseball games provided a moment Greg Kinneman to look for his sons, Brandon and Brett. He would take just a few seconds around that time to spot them together.
Whether it was a district game in Hershey or one of four during the PIAA tournament, he knew each one could be their last as teammates. There was no could be Friday at Penn State's Medlar Field.
"I know that probably for the rest of their lives, besides a local men's league or something like that, this is the last meaningful baseball game that they will play together," said Greg, an assistant on the Bulldogs' coaching staff.
Greg's sons, who helped West York win a PIAA Class AAA baseball title last year on this field, celebrated once again and never again like this. Brandon pitched the first five innings on the mound and took the last out at first base for a 2-1 win against Upper Moreland (21-5). The catch, which came after shortstop Brandon Wetzel bobbled a groundball, ended the senior's career at West York (21-8). It also ended a run in which his entire immediate family surrounded him. His father, also a pitcher and first baseman, coached him since he was 8. His mother, Heather, has been the team scorekeeper since he first played varsity as a sophomore.
And Brett? The sophomore never played with his brother more than the last two seasons.
"It's pretty cool to experience this with a bunch of teammates you love, but your own brother? It's unbelievable," said Brett, who watched from right field as Brandon hesitated after the final out.
The reaction from Kinneman's teammates -- including Carson Fries, who relieved him on the mound - indicated the first-base umpire called the batter out.
"I realized he was out by two steps," Kinneman said. "It was crazy."
Fries moved over from third base to pitch after Kinneman walked a batter on four pitches to lead off the sixth inning. The winning pitcher in West York's first three PIAA tournament games, Fries picked up the save after striking out four of the seven hitters he faced in Friday's title game. He also helped Kinneman become the first West York pitcher other than Fries or Kaden Hepler to win a PIAA tournament game in two years.
Hepler won all four during last season's run. Kinneman was coach Roger Czerwinski's next option on that Bulldogs team, which blew past a few of its opponents and didn't have the close games this squad endured.
Kinneman started a 2-0 quarterfinal win against Holy Ghost Prep, which beat Upper Moreland for the District 1 title last month. He rotated with fellow senior Joe Prego, as the two saw their playoff games either extend to extra innings or come down to the final at-bat. It all began with a seventh-inning rally against Lampeter-Strasburg in a District 3 third-place game to qualify for the PIAA tournament. That's when senior Brandon Rauhauser said his teammates started to believe they could repeat last year's run. Coincidentally, it started against an L-S team they beat for last year's title and ended as the PIAA's first repeat baseball champion since Moon High School 11 years ago.
The win also was West York's 10th straight in postseason elimination games, spanning back to last year's third-place district game. In just the last month, the Bulldogs closed their season winning 12 of 13.
That run began when Brandon Kinneman decided to wear blue stirrups over his socks one day for a regular season game.
He left Medlar Field calling it one of the best decisions he's made.
"Couldn't have asked for a better high school career on the baseball field," Kinneman said. "I'm so lucky and so blessed."
To share this day with his family added to the appreciation. They not only shared of a baseball dugout, but both parents graduated from West York in 1991. The brothers throw a baseball with their left hands and so does their dad. Although their mother doesn't, she said she was left-handed in gymnastics.
"I hope to one day enjoy that family-style situation with my kids, too," said Czerwinski, whose 12-year-old son, Cameron, spent Friday and most games with him, too.
Brandon and Brett Kinneman, both two-sport athletes, are hardly teammates at any other time of the year. Their 2-year age difference usually kept them apart in travel baseball, and when Brandon moves on to Susquehanna University this fall, Greg expects Brandon to send text messages asking about his little brother like he did during previous summers.
From this day forward, though, Brandon is no longer a teammate. He's just a concerned brother.
Friday provided enough worrisome moments. They came in the fourth inning, when Brandon loaded the bases after walking two batters. The next inning wasn't much better: after two more walks, Upper Moreland had runners in scoring position with two outs.
One hit would have changed the game, but Brett caught the fly ball to ease his older brother's nerves.
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