SOMERSET - Dark storm clouds hovered over the Somerset Area High School baseball field for much of Thursday's District 6 Class AAA playoff game between Somerset and Hollidaysburg.
And, for the most part, the outcome of the semifinal contest appeared gloomy for the second-seeded Golden Eagles as well.
The sky finally opened up late in the game with the third-seeded Tigers ahead 3-1. The delay lasted only about 15 minutes, but it was all the time Somerset needed to regroup, and for things to fall apart for Hollidaysburg.
Somerset staged a dramatic seventh-inning rally that included a game-tying two-run single by Devin Pritts and a walk-off, base hit by Tyler Funa as the Eagles pulled out a 4-3 victory.
"Never give, and that's what this group is all about," Somerset coach Steve Costea said. "Did the rain help or hurt, who knows? It happened. Pressure comes in a district semifinal."
Somerset (17-5) advanced to the District 6 Class AAA championship game for the third time in four years. The Eagles will face top-seeded Indian Valley, a 2-1 semifinal winner over No. 4 Bellefonte, in the title tilt on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Blair County Ballpark.
"We're looking forward to it," Costea said. "We have some experience, but we have a lot of young guys doing big things for us. Everybody contributes. One through nine plus the bench. It's been a team effort all season."
Meanwhile, Hollidaysburg ended its season at 10-9. The Tigers had previously competed in Class AAAA in the District 6 playoffs.
"It was a really good season," Hollidaysburg coach Jon Szynal said. "Obviously, we would have liked to get back to the championship game, our first time in triple-A. We had a good group of kids who worked hard. It just didn't work out for them today."
Solid pitching and defense by both teams made for a quick and proficient game early.
Hollidaysburg got on the board first in the top of the fourth when Nathan Pope led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Chad Barton and scored on an RBI single by Aaron Burger.
Somerset countered in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at 1-1 with nearly the same scoring formula. Funa drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on Michael Flyte's sacrifice bunt and scored on an RBI grounder to short by Cameron Darr.
The Tigers went ahead in the fifth. Eagles pitcher Ian Stiffler got Jordan Baum to strike out, but Ian Ford scored when Dane Scallen stole second and the attempted throw sailed into center field. Pope promptly followed with an RBI single to make the score 3-1.
Hollidaysburg hurler Corey Barr made it through the bottom of the fifth unscathed, then retired Somerset's batters in order in the sixth. But, things went downhill in a hurry for the visitors following the rain delay.
Somerset opened the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and no outs. That's when Pritts laced a single to left, scoring Pat Blough and Sam Kociola to tie the score at 3-3. Funa followed with a line drive over the left fielder's head, which brought home Zach Helsley with the game-winning run.
"You have to get 21 outs," said Szynal. "Sometimes after a rain delay like that, things aren't quite the same. We didn't make the plays in the seventh when we needed to. I thought [Barr] pitched a great game, well enough to win. You have to give [Somerset] some credit. They put the ball in play there at the end. For whatever reason, we just didn't make the plays."
Szynal said he did not consider replacing Barr with another pitcher following the rain delay.
"We thought the rain delay was short enough and he felt fine," Szynal said. "It was his game the whole way. He's a senior. We felt he had enough left in the tank to get it done."
HOLLIDAYSBURG (3): Hileman ss 400, Baum 2b 400, Pope cf 413, Barton dh 300, Barr p 300, Burger 3b 303, Lascoli c 300, Ford 1b 312, Scallen rf 210, Sell lf 000. Totals - 29-3-8.
SOMERSET (4): Helsley cf 311, Pritts ss 402, Hemminger 3B-p 301, Funa rf 311, Ream 2B 302, Flyte lf 200, Darr 1B 300, Blough dh-3B 310, Stull c 210, Sleek ph 100, Stiffler p 000. Totals: 27-4-7.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Hollidaysburg 000 120 0 - 3 8 2
Somerset 000 100 3 - 4 7 3
Hollidaysburg: Barr (L)- 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO.
Somerset: Stiffler-6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO; Hemminger (W)-1 IP 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO.
Records: Hollidaysburg (10-9); Somerset (17-5).