Gettysburg’s baseball players received District 3 medals for the first time in the history of the program, but there wasn’t a smile to be found.
Regret tends to follow any team that comes up short while chasing down dreams, but the Warriors couldn’t help feeling especially glum after allowing Cedar Cliff to erase three leads in the District 3 Class 5A Championship game on Thursday in York. Three defensive miscues in the sixth inning led to a 5-3 defeat.
“It’s obviously disappointing. We feel like we could have won that game,” Gettysburg senior Josh Topper said. “We’re still playing baseball and we might see them again in two weeks (in the state tournament). We have to keep our heads up and keep playing.”
Gettysburg’s Dillon Gebler swung like he was born to mash at PeoplesBank Park, cracking two doubles, scoring once and driving home another run. Logan Moseley added a pair of singles and scored, and Simeon Davis collected his team-high sixth hit of districts before coming around to score the team’s final run for a 3-2 lead in the fifth.
“Obviously it’s disappointing. We wanted to win and came here with that goal in mind,” Davis said. “It’s good to know we’re not done with baseball yet.”
If anyone played the hero for Cedar Cliff, it was Louisville University prospect Bobby Whalen. The leadoff man was the only Colt batter to master Gettysburg starter Marshall Mott, launching a pair of doubles and scoring to tie the game twice. His first run came on a Donovan Ball sac fly with his team down 1-0 in the third, the second on Ball’s single past third with the Colts trailing 2-1 in the fifth.
As fate would have it, Whalen’s most impactful moment came on his worst swing for contact. With the game tied 3-3 and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, he bent a bouncing ball toward second. Xander Meckley sat back a little too long, taking the ball off the rib cage to eliminate any double play potential. The hurried throw that followed sailed past first, allowing a second run to score for a 5-3 Colts advantage.
“We’re close, but we’re not quite there yet,” Gettysburg head coach Ryan Brady said. “This taught us that we have more work to do. Too many mistakes. Everything shows up in a game of this magnitude between two really good teams. In the regular season, you might squeak by. At this level, you have to play mistake-free baseball. I’m still really proud of our guys. It’s a shame someone had to lose.”
Even after the collapse, the Warriors (21-4) continued to show fight. Davis, whose error at short loaded the bases for Whalen in the sixth, came up firing toward home on his next bouncer with two in scoring position. He got it to Dylan Ed just in time for the catcher to tag out the lead runner.
Ed then sniffed out a double steal with runners on first and third. His sharp throw to second and a quick tag by Moseley ended the inning before the other runner could score.
“In that sixth inning, they probably could have blown it open,” Brady said. “We held it and at least kept the game manageable. I was proud of the way they battled.”
The Warriors still maintained hope when they came up in the bottom of the seventh.
The first man to the plate, Davis, had been the team’s hottest hitter in districts. The second, Gebler, had smoked a double down the left field line in the first, then come around to score on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead. In the fifth, he pounded the hardest hit ball of the day to the left-center gap. It took two hops before reaching the wall, allowing Davis to score from first for a 3-2 lead.
“I knew it was going over his head as soon as I hit it,” Gebler said. “Last night me and my dad went out (to Gettysburg College) for two hours to hit some baseballs and I think that helped a lot today,” he said. “I hadn’t been seeing the ball lately so I thought it would be good to get some more practice.”
Unfortunately for Gettysburg, the day belonged to Whalen, who earned the save after entering in relief in the bottom of the sixth for starter Tayven Kelley. The Warriors went three up, three down in the seventh.
With two away, Colts second baseman Nathan Uzelac charged a slow grounder and fired to first. Whalen threw his glove high in the sky in celebration and was immediately sacked by his catcher, Ball, sprouting a human dogpile next to the mound.
Mott fired five innings for Gettysburg, allowing five hits, a walk and two earned runs while striking out four in a no-decision. The loss went to Zach Ketterman, who allowed two hits and a walk, all in the sixth. Two of the three runs against him were unearned.
“We threw Marshall out there in the biggest game in school history and he did everything we asked him to do,” Brady said. “He came out of the game with the lead. If you told me that going into the game, I liked where we stood.”
The Warriors finished the game with four errors, their most since a 6-5 victory over Shippensburg on May 4. They survived three errors against Lampeter-Strasburg in Tuesday’s semifinals, but seemed to make up for their every mistake in the tournament until that fateful sixth inning.
“There may have been some anxiety with our players, being in this big stadium and everyone in it,” Gebler said. “There were a lot of emotions and you have to think fast and make the play. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t.
“It stinks to lose, but it’s good to learn and we learned a lot today. We showed a lot of heart on the field and I think we proved a lot of people wrong today.”
The championship victory was the second in three consecutive tries for the Colts (21-3). They lost in the title game to Ephrata last year. The Warriors exited in the first round of districts the previous two seasons.
“Our guys have played in big enough spots that we didn’t think this spot would be too big for them,” Brady said. “When you play really good teams like this and you make errors, they make you pay for it.”
The Warriors were not concerned about regrouping before the the PIAA Championships, beginning Monday against District 11 champ Blue Mountain (21-3) at a place and time to be determined.
“I love coming out playing baseball and I love these guys — they’re my brothers,” Topper said. “We have states in front of us. It’s been a great experience so far. I want to keep it going. I never want it to stop.”
Adam Michael can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at @GoodOldTwoNames
Cedar Cliff 001 013 0 — 5 7 1
Gettysburg 100 110 0 — 3 6 4
Marshall Mott, Zach Ketterman (6) and Dylan Ed. Tayven Kelley, Bobby Whalen and Donovan Ball. WP: Kelley. LP: Ketterman. 2B: G- Dillon Gebler 2; CC- Bobby Whalen 2.