Ryan Brady placed himself in his players’ shoes and was overwhelmed by the frustration he knew they must have been feeling.
The Gettysburg Area High School baseball coach was, like his team, trying to come to grips with the fact the 2020 season was lost, yet another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. It was painful enough having to share the grim news with his players via text message and not being able to look into their eyes when explaining their dreams were shelved, but he searched for a deeper way to relate to what they were experiencing.
“I tried to put myself into the shoes of my players, especially the four seniors,” said Brady. “When I played at Delone we went 18-2 my junior year and brought everybody back after reaching the District 3 title game. We made the title game the next year, too. I can’t imagine the feelings I would have had finding out that we wouldn’t get our shot to go back. It made me feel even worse.”
Gettysburg enjoyed one of the finest seasons in program history last year, going 21-5 overall and 13-1 in divisional play. The Warriors reached the District 3 Class 5A title game, falling just short to Cedar Cliff at Revolution Stadium in York. They then advanced to the PIAA Championships, losing a tight 2-0 contest to Blue Mountain.
The Warriors were set to return nearly their entire lineup, including a deep pitching staff anchored by junior southpaw Marshall Mott, a University of Pennsylvania recruit. Seniors Zach Ketterman (Western Carolina), Dillon Gebler (New Jersey Institute of Technology) and Dylan Ed (Barton College) had their college baseball plans squared away as well, allowing them to place their full focus on capturing a district championship.
Then the bottom fell out.
On April 9, the PIAA announced the spring sports season was cancelled due to the pandemic. And just like that, a dream season saw a nightmarish plot twist.
“It was very disappointing, and heartbreaking,” said Ed, Gettysburg’s rock-solid catcher. “We knew our goals and knew we had a great team. Our team is like a family and it’s so sad knowing I’ll never play with my teammates or for my coaches again.”
Brady, who was set to enter his sixth season as head coach, shared Ed’s feeling of loss.
“At the beginning I selfishly felt terrible because I knew what type of team we had and what a season it could have been,” he said. “When it hit me that we weren’t going to play and these guys were losing their season, my mind instantly went to my seniors. “Zach, Dillon, Dylan and Collin (Campbell) have a ton of experience. It went from frustration to feeling terrible for the seniors.”
The outgoing core was the foundation of last year’s team that took Warrior fans on a memorable ride. Following a shaky start that saw Gettysburg drop two of its first three outings, Brady’s bunch reeled off 17 consecutive victories, running away with the YAIAA-2 title. Victories over Dover (1-0), Manheim Central (3-1) and eventual state finalist Lampeter-Strasburg (4-0) sent Gettysburg into the D3 finals. Cedar Cliff rallied to deny gold but the Warriors, with three straight division titles and trips to districts, had established themselves as one of the top programs in Class 5A.
Not a team relying on two bloops and a blast, Gettysburg executed at a high rate offensively last season, plating a handful of runs per game before leaning on its stellar pitching and defense. Fireballer Mott, who was 6-2 with a team-best 63 strikeouts, was set to supplant graduated Josh Topper as the staff ace. Ketterman (4-2, 1.25 ERA), Gebler (2-0, 2.93 ERA) and Alex Meckley, who didn’t allow a run in six varsity innings helped shape what was to be a formidable rotation.
Ed, who was not charged with an error all season behind the plate, was eager to work with the array of arms.
“We had even more to offer this year,” he said. “We had quite a few freshmen and sophomores that were going to step in. We had a full rotation and no weaknesses in the lineup.”
Ketterman, one of the program’s most impactful players, was a catalyst in all three phases of the game. The junior batted .308 with 24 hits, 22 runs scored and 18 stolen bases. The sure-handed shortstop posted a fielding percentage of .943 in nearly 100 chances when not providing extra punch on the mound.
Gebler was coming off a junior campaign in which he batted .341, leading the team in hits (30) and RBI (18). Mott stroked the ball to the tune of a .299 average with 23 hits while Ed and Campbell combined to collect 31 base knocks.
Ketterman said he never could have imagined last year’s loss to Blue Mountain in the state playoffs would serve as his final game in a Warrior uniform.
“It was definitely a shock for all of us,” he said. “After that game we started looking forward to our senior season and were excited for our potential. We lost Topper and Simeon (Davis) but we were a much better team this year. Who knows what could have happened?”
Ketterman has turned his attention to preparing for his college career at Western Carolina, which plays on the NCAA Division I level. He and his brother Ethan, a former Warrior standout who hit .304 for Pennsylvania College of Technology last season, have been working out in a makeshift weight room. Zach has also been throwing and hitting with Topper when the opportunity arises.
He’s made peace with the situation in part because he understands the legacy that has been left for upcoming Warriors.
“I was able to cope with it better because I know what I left behind — a work ethic and path for the young kids to follow,” he said. “Our class rose to the occasion and I got to experience that and have fun with my teammates.”
Brady gave a figurative tip of the cap to his team, especially the seniors, for the manner in which they dealt with the adversity.
“They’ve withstood one of the toughest situations a senior would have to go through,” he said. “If they can get through something like this, they’ll be prepared to handle anything life will throw at them. It’s been very tough though. It still hurts as their coach.”