By Mike Longo Jr.
Montour's hopes of "Back to Back" PIAA State Titles suffered a devastating blow when they were booted from the state playoffs in round one by Erie Cathedral Prep with a score of 6-5.
The Ramblers kept the usually powerful Montour bats silent for the first three innings of the contest, not allowing a run. On the reverse side, Cathedral Prep notched two runs in the second inning while adding another in the third for a comfortable 3-0 lead headed to the fourth.
Breathing some life into an otherwise dismal offensive performance, the Spartan bats awoke. Montour plated three runs in their half of the 4th inning, knotting the contest at 3-3. Shaking off the cobwebs again, Montour gathered two more runs in the fifth inning, taking the lead 5-3 feeling more at ease.
Cathedral Prep was dealt a pair of goose eggs in their half of the fourth and fifth innings. Looking to pad the lead in the sixth, Montour failed to notch a run holding a narrow two run edge heading to the Ramblers half of the inning.
Having a team loaded with senior experienced ball players the Spartan faithful were feeling pretty good about their chances and advancement to the next round.
Often it's been said, a game changes with one swing of the bat or one pitch. On the pitching side, there is always one pitch in the course of a game said pitcher wishes he could take back.
All three of the above mentioned analogies rang true in the Cathedral Prep bottom of inning six. Montour Pitcher Jake Robinson wishes he could have that one pitch back. Ramblers hitter, Senior Cole Constable, changed the game with one swing of the bat. Constable simply destroyed a fastball and launched it over the left center field fence into no man's land. His three run blast rocketed the Ramblers back into the lead 6-5.
With one final chance, Cathedral Prep slammed the door on Montour in the seventh thus ending the game, their season and the Spartans dreams of another state title.
Offensively, Montour mustered six hits which came from six different players.
For the Spartans 10 seniors on this year's squad, although disappointed they have nothing to hang their heads about. All 10 will attend college, eight of 10 will play a varsity sport.
A three-year run on the diamond produced a 58-17 record, three Section Championships, two WPIAL Runners Up along with a PIAA State Championship (2022).
Bishop Canevin, the WPIAL Class 1A Champions entered the state playoffs with high expectations even though they have no senior starters. A young team to say the least, the Crusaders have been playing an amazing brand of baseball.
Once you reach the second season, AKA the playoffs you have to bring your A game to because of the large talent pool across the state. Bishop Canevin found that out first hand as they ran into Saegertown's flamethrowing Pitcher, Senior Henry Shaffer.
Shaffer not only shut down the Crusaders offense by not allowing a run in the 6-0 win, he didn't yield a hit in route to his shutout no hitter.
One may attribute the Crusaders demise in round one of the state playoffs to inexperience, perhaps nerves or a sense of venturing into uncharted waters. Whatever the case may be, Bishop Canevin was soundly defeated by a superior Saegertown ballclub.
Possibly one or all of the above mentioned may have got the best of Crusaders ace of the mound, Pitcher Kole Olszewski. The first four batters he faced in inning number one, all reached base via the hit route. A triple was the biggest blow of the inning, resulting in a 3-0 Panthers lead.
Olszewski regained his composure settling down in the second, fourth and fifth innings, however, the scoreboard read 3-0 in favor of Saegertown. The Panthers notched another run in the third inning cruising to a 4-0 lead. The fifth inning was Olszewski's last as he gave way to reliever, Tyler Maddix who gave up the final two runs to the Panthers without giving up a hit.
Bishop Canevin's best scoring chance came in the game's first inning. Varley led off the contest with a walk.
He stole second base and advanced to third where he was left as the next three hitters went down in order.The next 14 Crusader batters would follow suit and were retired in order.
Shaffer's No Hitter was only in jeopardy one time with two outs in the seventh inning and two Crusaders on base. A ground ball to shortstop was bobbled and after what appeared to be a late throw to first base, the runner was called out.
A TV replay clearly showed the runner was safe having beaten the throw. However, the play would have been ruled an Error with the No Hitter still intact. Would that have made a difference? One can only surmise.
One thing is for sure, Bishop Canevin Baseball will be a force in the WPIAL and PIAA for the next few years with all the underclass talent they have returning to the diamond.
Inexperience, nerves and a sense of the unknown will all be things of the past as the Crusader's future certainly looks bright.