Bellwood’s comeback falls short

DILLSBURG — Say what you will regarding Steve Conlon’s Bellwood-Antis Blue Devils and how they play the game of baseball, but whether they win, lose or somehow find a way to draw they do keep things mighty, mighty interesting.

Right up until the final out.

And while Monday’s PIAA Class 2A semifinal-round scrap with Neumann-Goretti morphed into a one-run game — B-A won each of its first two state tournament games by a single run — this time Conlon’s Blue Devils wound up on the short end of a 10-9 result despite a valiant rally in the final inning that made things tight.

“They were a solid club top to bottom,” Conlon said of the balanced Saints.

“That’s a good baseball team.”

Had Conlon’s bunch been a bit closer when the final inning began to dramatically unfold, they might have been the group celebrating wildly at sun-starched Northern York High School when the festivities finally came to a close.

Since that wasn’t the case, it’ll be Neumann-Goretti playing in its third straight state championship game. And up next for Mike Zolk’s Saints (22-4) will be a dustup with a Bishop McCort club that downed B-A in the District 6-2A title game.

Yet while Neumann-Goretti seemed set for one more baseball-centric excursion to Centre County – especially since Zolk’s group led 10-4 after six full – Conlon’s Blue Devils weren’t about to see their season end without a fight.

“They call them the Cardiac Kids,” Conlon said. “Just a little bit too much to come back from today. But we made it interesting.”

They certainly did.

“They didn’t want to end their career like that,” said Zolk, Neumann-Goretti’s first-year skipper. “They wanted to come out. They wanted to win. You’ve got to tip your caps to them, especially putting up a five-spot in that last half-inning.

“It’s awesome the way they represented themselves today.”

In business when Trent Walker reached on a bad-hop single and Joe Padula followed with a knock to center, the Blue Devils (19-6) popped Neumann-Goretti starter Phil Sanborn for a deuce when Sawyer Kline one-hopped a double off the fence in right-center that had B-A within 10-6.

Having maxed out at 100 pitches, Zolk lifted Sanborn and brought on a fresh Joe Messina to try to close out the Blue Devils. Didn’t happen right away.

While Jordan McCracken greeted Messina with a single to short, Nevin Wood worked a full count and drew a walk that loaded the bases. Moments later, Travis Luensmann popped an RBI single and Jack Showalter added a run-scoring groundout.

Now down 10-8 – with just one out – the Blue Devils made it a one-run outing when Troy Walker lifted a sacrifice fly to center that chased home Wood. And when Jordan Kowalski reached on a dropped third strike, there were men at the corners.

Unfortunately for B-A, Trent Walker’s grounder through the box deflected to second baseman Stephen Pizza and he threw to first for the final out.

“They did what they needed to do,” Conlon said. “They battled.

“We just got behind too much.”

Yet even though B-A made a game of it, Conlon’s bunch will lament the five runs they yielded to the Saints in the second. While they closed to within one in the fourth (5-4) – RBI singles from Showalter and Kowalski highlighted the Devils’ three-run rally – Neumann-Goretti held a sizable lead heading into the final frame after scoring twice in the fifth and adding three more runs one inning later.

“We talked big about coming in and putting some insurance runs on just in case for a situation like this,” Zolk admitted.

Well, that six-run lead proved to be just enough.

“We made it close,” Conlon said with a chuckle. “These kids don’t quit.

“You’ve got to give our kids credit. They battled to the last out and that’s all you can ask for from a bunch of high school kids. That’s pretty good.”

Mighty, mighty interesting, too.

BELLWOOD-ANTIS (9): Kowalski cf 411, Tre.Walker rf 512, Padula 1b 312, Kline p-2b 411, McFarland 2b-cr 010, McCracken lf 422, Wood ss-p 321, Luensmann 3b 402, Showalter c 401, Tro.Walker dh 301, Schmoke 2b 000, Kost pr 000. Totals – 34-9-13.

NEUMANN-GORETTI (10): Eiser cf 411, Baur 3b 422, Healey ss 312, McGettigan 1b 311, Pizza 2b 221, Reynolds rf 321, Nardini c 402, Pierandozzi pr 000, Sanborn p 402, Bouie cr 010, Messina p 000, Jaep dh 200, Masciulli lf 000. Totals – 29-10-12.

SCORE BY INNINGS

Bellwood-Antis 100 300 5 – 9 13 2

Neumann-Goretti 050 023 x – 10 12 2

E – Pizza, Reynolds, Kline, Kowalski. DP – Neumann-Goretti 1. LOB – Bellwood-Antis 8, Neumann-Goretti 7. 2B – Kline. RBI – Kowalski, Padula, Kline 2, Luensmann 2, Showalter 2, Tro.Walker, Healey 2, McGettigan, Reynolds, Nardini 2, Sanborn 3. SB – Padula, Kowalski, Pizza.

PITCHING

Bellwood-Antis – Kline (L) 4.2 IP, 7 R, 6 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 3 K; Wood 1.1 IP 3 R, 3 ER, 5 H, 1BB. Neumann-Goretti – Sanborn (W) 6 IP, 7 R, 6 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 7 K; Messina (S) 1 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K.

WP – Messina. PB – Nardini. Balk – Sanborn.

Records: Bellwood-Antis (19-6); Neumann-Goretti (22-4).

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