GREENSBURG - Pat Stock walked slowly from his spot in the third base coach's box, shook the home plate umpire's hand and hugged the final hitter, Kiersten Lorditch.
When Burrell center fielder Kaitlyn Sweeney caught Lorditch's fly ball to secure a 6-2 win in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals on a steamy Thursday afternoon at Hempfield Area High School, it ended the Pat Stock Era at Central Cambria.
The 62-year-old Stock is retiring after 34 years and 527 wins as Central Cambria's coach and will be inducted into the District 6 Hall of Fame this summer. Stock held back his emotions as he talked with his team in a postgame meeting in center field and with the media afterward.
"Like I told the kids out there that were crying, 'I should be the one that's crying because I don't get to coach another team like you again,' " he said as his voice cracked. "It will probably hit me in a few days. It's something that I've been doing since 1978, but I haven't had time to let it sink in yet.
"But it's been fun. I really enjoyed all those years of coaching. I wouldn't have even been here this year if these kids hadn't asked me to stay through their senior year."
The nine seniors, eight of whom started, convinced Stock when they were freshmen to stick it out until they graduated, which they did Thursday night.
They wanted to continue the ride into the semifinals, where they'd get either District 6 champion Philipsburg-Osceola or District 7 runner-up Greensburg Central Catholic, who were postponed to 1 p.m. today at Altoona's Logan Elementary.
"We were hoping to play Philipsburg," said senior catcher and No. 3 hitter Breanne James, who was 2-for-3 with a double. "Coach Stock never beat Philipsburg, so we were hoping to get a chance to give him his first [win], but we were really glad to make it this far.
"He is the best coach I've ever had in any sport since I started sports when I was 8 years old. I hope that we made his last year memorable."
It appeared the seniors' wish would come true as they took a 2-1 lead into the top of the fifth inning. That's when the Bucs went to the short game, and the defensive problems that cost the Lady Red Devils in the district title game against P-O showed up in a four-run inning.
After Allison Landowski worked a leadoff walk off of pitcher Jordan Makin, CC committed errors on successive bunts by Jaila Manga and Nina Spagnolo. Justine Damico's sacrifice fly plated Landowski for the tying run.
Shortstop Taylor Swatsworth appeared to erase Manga at home following a ground ball, but James was called for obstructing the plate, and Manga was awarded home. Stock argued the call, but to no avail.
"I really didn't feel there was obstruction," Stock said, "but that guy is a really professional umpire. He didn't create the problem. He didn't walk the leadoff hitter and he didn't misplay two bunts."
Kaitlyn Sweeney chased Spagnolo with another sacrifice fly. Courtesy runner Kelly Mazzei stole home when James made a play on courtesy runner Melissa Mazzei. So, that's two sacrifice bunts, two sacrifice flys, a double steal and an obstruction in one inning.
"The short game is something I felt we had to put on to this team," Burrell coach Mike Spagnolo said, "because we were hitting a lot right at them. I felt if we had to make them execute and see where they were defensively."
The Bucs scored one more run in the seventh on another error. A four-run cushion was more than enough for Burrell pitcher Casey Moses, who gave up RBI singles to Swatsworth in the first and Aimee Espe in the third before retiring the final 13 batters. Moses struck out nine, walked one and pitched a four-hitter.
"I'm proud of these kids," Stock said. "I knew we'd have a good season. I really realistically didn't think we'd make the final eight, so they carried us as far as their ability, and they never quit in this game.
"They were a special team for me, not just because they were my last team, but they were the most wonderful group of kids to work with."
Stock has a house in Florida, and it's been tough to come back to the cold weather in the spring. He and his wife, Beverly, could be getting some visitors in the future.
"I hope he invites me down to Florida," James said laughing. "Hey, anytime."
BURRELL (6): Manga lf 210, Spagnolo ss 210, Damico 3b 301, Reed c 402, K. Mazzei cr 020, Sweeney cf 301, C. Moses p 402, M. Mazzei cr 000, Fisher 2b 400, J. Moses 1b 301, Landowski dp 020, Uzelac rf 000. Totals - 25-6-7.
CENTRAL CAMBRIA (2): Lorditch cf 310, Swatsworth ss 301, James c 312, Beyer 1b 300, Vogatsky 3b 200, Espe lf 301, Haluska rf 300, Forcellini dp 100, Howell dp 200, Magley 2b 300, Makin p 000. Totals - 26-2-4.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Burrell001 040 1-6 7 1
Central Cambria101 000 0-2 4 4
E-Spagnolo; Vogatsky 3, Lorditch. 2B-Sweeney; James. RBI-Reed 2, Damico, Sweeney. SAC-Manga 2, Spagnolo, Landowski. SF-Damico, Sweeney. SB-K. Mazzei 2, Spagnolo, M. Mazzei, Fisher. CS-Damico (by James). DP-Central Cambria. LOB-Burrell 7, Central Cambria 5. HBP-Lorditch.
Burrell: C. Moses (W)-7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO.
Central Cambria: Makin (L)-7 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 SO.
Records: Burrell (19-1); Central Cambria (15-3).