Boldly printed on the back of the warmup shirts of the Lancaster Catholic baseball team is the motto, “Win Every Inning.”
At the PIAA Class 3A state final game at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on a sun-splashed June 17, the Crusaders unfortunately were unable to win an inning against District 6 juggernaut Central-Martinsburg High School, located about 20 miles south of Altoona. Central’s Dragons came into the game undefeated, the only Pennsylvania team to do so this season, as they jumped on the Crusaders in the first two innings to build a 7-0 lead that buried Lancaster Catholic early.
Central’s first four hitters all had multiple-hit games and set the table brilliantly for the Dragons’ bottom half of the batting order, that seemed to not have any weak hitters either. The Crusaders, however, weren’t sharp on the fast, natural turf field, committing several errors and missing cut-off men, giving the Dragons extra bases in the game’s early going. Giving a hungry ball club extra bases and the liberty to be aggressive on the base paths doomed the usually steady and fundamentally-sound Crusaders. Winds gusting to 40 mph made fly balls an adventure, and Lancaster Catholic misplayed several catchable ones that also gave the Dragons easy runs.
Medlar Field, framed in the outfield by the majestic Mount Nittany, is a big stage, where some 5,000 fans were in attendance. It’s a daunting atmosphere and one Central seemed to handle better once they built their lead.
The game ended in the 5th inning, given the PIAA’s 10-run mercy rule, though the Crusaders (23-3 on the season) did mount a rally in the bottom half of the 5th to narrow the lead to 13-2. It was a testament to the Crusaders’ never-quit attitude, but in a winner-take-all scenario, sharpness in the field, timely hitting and excellent pitching are paramount. And it was the Dragons who delivered, and the reason their undefeated team is a state champion.
“I’m just proud of this group… we’ll keep building from here,” Lancaster Catholic head coach Steve Remley told the press after the game. Lancaster Catholic won a state championship in baseball back in 2018 at PSU.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness