Fitting all the details of Bonner-Prendergast’s 9-6 loss to West York in extra innings of the PIAA Class AAA opener Tuesday into a game story was quite a challenge. It took me over 1,000 words, and I’m not sure that I did that. Such was the challenge posed by a back-and-forth game that was so rich in storylines. So beyond the gamer, here’s what else happened.
– This actually got into the game story, but it bears repeating: West York scored nine runs in two innings, the first and the eighth. In those two frames, they had two hits. When Bonner-Prendie manager Joe DeBarberie says that his team shouldn’t have lost this game, that’s what he means.
– To elaborate on that point, consider this: West York hit six balls out of the infield all game, none in the three-run eighth-inning outburst that allowed the Bulldogs to win. Not six hits that left the infield, six total balls, including outs, hit out of the infield. Of their six hits, only one – Cole Bixler’s one-out double in the fifth inning – was anything but a cheapie. Brett Kinneman’s three-run triple in the first was a dunker, albeit a well-placed one, down the right-field line that sliced into foul territory away from right fielder Brad Scull. Cole Fries blooped a single to make it 6-0. Brandon Wetzel hit a seeing-eye single in the second. Brandon Rauhauser reached on a bunt single in the first. And Fries’ double to lead off the sixth was misplayed by Scull went he went in on the ball instead of back. Along with a flyout to Scull to end the sixth, those were the only balls to travel to the outfield grass. I can’t even remember very many hard-hit foul balls.
– The main reason for that was Danny Furman. It’s difficult to imagine a harder-luck loss then the one hung on the Pitt-bound senior. He comes into the game after the first six batters reach on Pat Vanderslice. He’s greeted by Fries’ bloop single. Then two strikeouts and a meek pop out end the inning. He only allowed five hits in eight innings, and the total of six walks is inflated by two in the eighth and the moronic strike zone I’ll discuss momentarily. He entered the eighth inning with 98 pitches and finished with 114. It was Furman who led the comeback effort, charging off the mound after innings like the fifth – closed by a 2-3-5 double play that started with his strikeout of Kinneman – exhorting his teammates to get them back in the game. It almost was enough.
– It became a peripheral note in the game, not my lede as I had originally envisioned when the Friars sat without a hit through the first turn of the lineup. But the third-strike call Vanderslice wasn’t given the on a 2-2 count just before Kinneman’s triple was simply atrocious. A sweeping fastball from a right-handed pitcher that appeared to catch the black on the inside corner to a lefty, I’m still not sure how it wasn’t a strike. It was less of a strike than the pitches that Mike Mentzer used to punch out two batters later in the inning. Just an embarrassing performance from what should be the best of the best. Sadly, though, that wasn’t it. The first-inning rally was exacerbated when first-base umpire Bob Mull ruled that Furman came off the base on a sacrifice attempt by Wetzel. He did … to tag Wetzel two feet in front of the bag. He did that right in front of the Bonner dugout, which gave him a deserving ear full. And so as not to be left out, David Sheller at second base punched out Brendan Kinneman stealing second when it was very clear that he was safe. But the best was after Tom Crumlish scored the game-tying run in the sixth, Mentzer chased him into the dugout to remove a necklace that he didn’t even appear to wearing. They just completely lost the plot, and it was embarrassing to witness.
– It’s rare to see a game with as many plays at the plate as this one. The pivotal one was Frank Saviski getting gunned out on a wild pitch in the sixth inning. There was also pinch-runner Sam Eyler getting cut down on a liner to Haley in the sixth. Then there was the 2-3-5 double play, Bixler getting thrown out at third base on a strikeout and throw to first. It was a bizarre game.
– It’s never easy having a front-row seat to the breakup of a team. But there’s something particularly sad about what the Friars experienced as they dispersed for the final time. The fact that they didn’t give up should’ve been no surprise; this is a group that continued to fight when they were told that their school would no longer exist. Against that backdrop, they rallied around each other and became about as close a team can be. It didn’t sound like a team playing its final game together; it truly sounded like brothers parting ways. The fact that they did so after coming so close and coming one hit away from unequivocally deserving to play on must have made it all the more difficult.