Baseball: Postseason wrap-up: Penncrest

There’s no team the deserves the kind of loss that ended Penncrest’s season, a roller-coaster ride that saw them squander leads of 7-2 after five innings and 8-7 in the eighth en route to a 9-8 loss in nine innings to Council Rock North.

It was the final irony for the Lions: In a season where little went to plan, things finally went the way Penncrest scripted it … and it still didn’t work.

The senior tandem of Bryan Kirk, left, and John Convery will leave a big hole in the middle of Penncrest's infield next season. (Times Staff / ERIC HARTLINE)

The senior tandem of Bryan Kirk, left, and John Convery will leave a big hole in the middle of Penncrest’s infield next season. (Times Staff / ERIC HARTLINE)

Consider the adversity this year. Division I talent John Geffre got knocked around in a few starts early in the season. First baseman Billie Buckwalter, who had a strong finish to his junior season and was expected to be a big RBI man in the middle of the Lions’ lineup, suffered through broken fingers that caused him to miss some time and didn’t get his first extra-base hit until the team’s 16th game of the season.

Through it all, Penncrest (14-7, 10-6 Central League) still managed numbers that objectively look impressive. Looking at the roster at season’s end, it’s a safe bet that next year’s team will look very different.

The Penncrest lineup that seemed perpetually slow to get going in games finally kicked it into high gear in the early stages of the CR North loss. It turned out that that was the last time they’d be together. All-Delco Shane Donnelly, Buckwalter, the middle infield tandem of Bryan Kirk and John Convery, centerfielder Cole Gamber and designated hitter Sean Heidig are all seniors. Though they produced in varying degrees this season – Gamber and Donnelly churned out extra-base hits while Kirk was a consummate table-setter and excellent shortstop – the lineup never really hummed like you sensed it was on the precipice of.

Where the lineup was thought to be the strong point in 2013, it may be that the rotation becomes a focal point in 2014. Geffre is gone, as is Nick Boleto. But sophomore Rob Brown was one of the big surprises of the Central League this year with his 3-0 record, while classmate Tyler Kight also won two games.

The lineup isn’t devoid of talent either. Ronnie DiMatteo was every bit the offensive revelation as was Brown on the mound. As a corner outfielder, the lefty proved and ability to hit that right-center field gap to the tune of five triples, among the county leaders in that category, while also hurling some quality innings. Zach Macerato owned third base for most of the year, and tall sophomore Nate Chuckran filled in ably for Buckwalter at first, even supplying the game-winning hit against Marple Newtown.

The changes will be numerous, but perhaps at least those will go to plan for the Lions.

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