Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Shamrocks’ Deepest Baseball Run Ends at State Semifinals

Taking the field at Muhlenberg High School on June 10, the Trinity Shamrocks’ baseball program was in a spot it had never seen before.

The new territory wasn’t limited to just the mound at the Reading-area high school; rather, it was the magnitude of the game itself, as the ’Rocks were competing at a level previously unseen in the school’s baseball program, playing for a chance to punch their ticket to the PIAA baseball championship game at Penn State University’s Medlar Field.

Under the glare of late-afternoon sun, Trinity faced the District 12 champion Saints of Neumann Goretti from Philadelphia, who were making their eighth semifinals appearance in program history.

The ’Rocks, District 3 runner-ups in 3A, came out with bats swinging in the top of the first, with Mark Cap’s fly-ball single sending Ryan Balaban across the plate. But the green and white left their opening at-bat with the bases loaded, and the Saints answered with two runs. Trinity’s starting pitcher, Ty Book, notched three straight outs against the Saints’ loaded bases in the bottom of the first to keep his team in striking distance.

But the first-inning tally turned out to be the only one the ’Rocks could muster against Neumann Goretti’s ace, Santino Pharma, who allowed six total hits and stranded Trinity runners in scoring position in the third and fifth innings.

Trinity’s fate was sealed in the bottom of the fifth, as the Saints exploded for eight runs, propelled by a rare inside-the-park grand slam by Andrew Dankanich for an 8-1 lead. The fifth inning saw the Saints step to the plate a dozen times, logging additional runs that employed the mercy rule and brought Trinity’s historic season to an end with an 11-1 loss.

Book pitched for Trinity in the first two innings, and was relieved by Timmy Cloak in the third and fourth; the latter initiated a double play that kept them within reach of the Saints in the early frames. Dom Haas and Zach Cherrup also took the mound for the ’Rocks, who finished their season at 17-9.

Their PIAA run included a 4-3 win in extra innings over Saucon Valley and a 7-1 victory over Mount Carmel in the quarterfinals. In the previous two seasons, the program bowed out of state competition in the first round.

Head coach Chris Cap told The Witness he is pleased with the team’s determination and consistency in building the program.

“It’s a matter of advancing the program at this point. We’re in unchartered waters. To be in the Final Four of 111 teams is really a great honor. For us, we just kind of move on from here with a look to the future,” he said. “Certainly disappointed with the result today, but not upset by any stretch. We have some good young guys in the program who are going to continue to produce for us, and we’re really excited about the future.”

“That’s the nature of the PIAA state tournament,” he said of the fifth inning. “When you have that bad of an inning, it’s very difficult to recover. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us today, but we’ll live to fight another day.”

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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