Dallastown falls in state championship heartbreak
STATE COLLEGE - The Dallastown Wildcats' historic season ended in state championship heartbreak.
The Wildcats and Pennsbury battled tooth and nail throughout Friday's PIAA Class 6A championship at Medlar Field. Entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the teams were locked in a scoreless draw.
With two out and runners on first and second, Pennsbury third baseman Nick Price blooped a single into left field. Sean Reding's throw came just a hair late and catcher Bryant Holtzapple couldn't apply the tag on Justin Massielo as the Falcons captured a 1-0 victory for the state championship.
Dallastown had a year for the record books, winning its second straight YAIAA title, its first District 3 championship and qualifying for the state final for the first time.
The Wildcats entered Friday's game on a 20-game win streak and finished the year with a 23-5 overall record.
The team accepted its second-place medals along the third-base line, exchanging hugs, handshakes and shedding tears, as the Dallastown faithful cheered loudly from start to finish.
"The season as a whole was awesome, amazing, the best thing I could ask for," senior shortstop Tye Golden said. "Even the finish. Whatever, we lost the game. But we got here and I had a lot of fun doing it."
"The hardest part is it's the last game with the 10 seniors we have," Dallastown pitcher Alex Weakland said, tears welling in his eyes. "Never again will we ever play on the same team."
Friday's game was well played from both teams, with outstanding pitching from Weakland and the Pennsbury duo of Ryan McCarty and Billy Bethel.
Weakland had allowed only one hit through six innings, and the Wildcats' defense made a number of standout plays that kept the team in the game.
The bottom of the seventh inning alone was a wild ride.
Bethel led the inning off with a double and it appeared the Falcons were in business with a runner in scoring position and nobody out.
Holtzapple made another defensive gem — his second of the game — when he picked off courtesy runner Justin Ward at second on a back-door bullet. Golden applied the tag, and the Dallastown crowd was jubilant once again.
The very next pitch saw Massielo dump a ball down the left-field line for a single, however. Dave Murphy then came up and hit a hot-shot to third baseman Nick Parker, who dove to snag the ball. His throw to first short-hopped Zach Ness, who made a terrific pick on the ball for the second out. Massielo, however, moved up a base.
The Wildcats elected to intentionally walk McCarty for Price. With two strikes Price hit a bloop to left field that fell in front of Reding, and Massielo just beat the throw to the plate for the game-winning run.
"Certainly it's one of the tougher losses that I've been around. Probably because I felt like it was our game to win. We simply just didn't do it," Dallastown head coach Greg Kinneman said. "Baseball teams don't just win 20 straight games. I don't care what level you're playing at, if you're Little League or high school or collegiate. ... The accomplishment of doing that is fantastic. The hard part about that is, Game 21 happened to be the state final."
Closer Michael Carr was up in the bullpen throughout the final inning and Kinneman visited the mound at one point in the seventh. But Kinneman elected to stick with Weakland, whose performance was nothing short of outstanding.
"If we'd have had the lead in the game, if we'd have been up 1-0, I probably would have went to Michael Carr to finish it," Kinneman said. "But I felt like if we could get through one (more) hitter — and I felt like he had enough to get that one last guy out, he had thrown well to that kid all night long — that we could score a run, then go to Michael. That's more been our formula, so-to-speak."
Following the game, the Wildcats lamented that they couldn't get a run across the board. Dallastown stranded runners at third in the first and sixth innings, and Dallastown had runners at second in the fifth and sixth stanzas.
"At the end of the day, they just happened to get a hit with a runner in scoring position," Holtzapple said. "We didn't really do a whole lot wrong. We kept a solid approach. We got guys on. We just didn't get them in."
McCarty gave the Wildcats some trouble with his breaking ball, and the Wildcats were visibly upset by the inside strike zone afforded by home plate umpire Brian McBride. McCarty recorded six strikeouts, with three Wildcats going down looking.
"I will say that I thought it was very inconsistent," Kinneman said of strike zone. "And probably a little too large for a state final. And that was for both ways. ... That's not an excuse for losing the baseball game at all."
Weakland, on the other hand, breezed through the Falcons' order from the get-go. Through six innings of work, Weakland had thrown just 53 pitches, gave up a just one hit and struck out two.
He gave up his one hit in the fifth on a roller up the middle that was fielded by Joe Capobianco. Capobianco's throw to first went over Ness' head, but Holtzapple was there to back things up and fired to second to cut down the base runner McCarty.
It was one of a number of outstanding defensive plays by the Wildcats. Weakland also escaped a jam in the fourth inning with runners at the corners and nobody out. He induced a lineout to second base, and then Dallastown turned a nifty 6-4-3 double play to escape trouble.
Holtzapple stood out behind the plate, and Ness made a handful of nice picks at first.
"They did the same thing they've been doing the whole year — making plays behind me," Weakland said. "They gave me all the confidence that I could go out and compete for them. Some of the plays they made, you just opened your eyes and said, 'Wow, did that just happen?'"
Bethel, who had a 0.00 ERA throughout Pennsbury's playoff run, got the win in a relief role. He entered the game in the sixth inning after a leadoff walk to Capobianco.
The game was originally scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m., but it didn't begin until 8:14 p.m. after a long weather delay.
Kinneman said following the game that he was OK with playing the game Friday night as opposed to it being moved Saturday, adding the field was in fine shape to play.