Baseball: Conestoga rues missed chances in state final
By PETER DiGIOVANNI
STATE COLLEGE — Sometimes in baseball things just do not work out for a team no matter how valiant the effort.Friday afternoon at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State, things did not go well for Conestoga in the eighth inning of its PIAA Class AAAA final against LaSalle.
The Explorers got to reliever Jake Bufo, who had come in for Brendan Little after throwing 111 pitches, for two runs on three hits en route to a thrilling 4-2 victory and their second state title in four years.
The Pioneers (20-8) left 10 men on base against starter Dom Cuoci and had the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning with the championship at hand, but were unable to score."We had our chances and we did not get it done,’ Conestoga coach John Vogan said. "It was not for a lack of effort or swinging at bad pitches. Give La Salle credit. We put the ball in play, but they made all the plays. They are a very good baseball team.’
LaSalle took an early 2-0 lead off Little as the Conestoga defense allowed single unerned runs in the first and third.
As they have done all season, the Conestoga bats came alive off Cuoci, who threw seven innings of excellent ball. Steve Born led off the fourth inning with a single and came around to score on Brandon Ruffenach’s RBI single to right field to cut the lead to 2-1. Conestoga tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. Austin Shirley led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Ryne Ogren. Then, Tom Richter roped a single to score Shirley and knot the score.
Staff photos by Tom Kelly IV Conestoga centerfield Alex Gagne (9) makes a sliding catch in the outfield during the Conestoga vs La Salle College High
Staff photos by Tom Kelly IV Conestoga centerfield Alex Gagne (9) makes a sliding catch in the outfield during the Conestoga vs La Salle College High School, PIAA AAAA Championship game in State College on Friday afternoon, June 13, 2014. (Tom Kelly IV)
“They got that hit off me, but I still felt good,’ Cuoci said. "They have a real good hitting team.’
With Little breezing along, not allowing a hit through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. it looked like the game would never end as both pitchers put on a show.
La Salle tried to break through in the seventh when Ryan Coonahan singled to lead off the inning. Ian McIntosh followed with a single to left to put men on first and second. Adam Arcadi bunted right back to Little, who got Coonahan on a force at third for the first out. A double steal put runners in scoring position, but leadoff hitter A.J. Gregezek missed a suicide squeeze bunt attempt and McIntosh was tagged out by catcher Andrew Turner for the second out. Little then got Gregezek to pop out to first baseman Max Dolente in foul ground.
Then it was the Pioneers’ turn to win the game. Shirley led off and laid down a perfect bunt for a single. Ogren sacrificed him to second with one out. Richter popped out for the second out, but Andrew Born reached on an error by Gregezek. Steve Born was intentionally walked to load the bases with two out and Turner coming up.
With the count at 1-1 Cuoci threw a off-speed pitch that Turner flied to right field for the final out to send the championship game into extra innings.
“We got men on, we just went back to what we were doing two weeks ago,’ Richter said. “He was a good pitcher. He threw downhill, he changed speeds and had good breaking stuff. We had not seen a pitcher like that this season. We just did not come through at the right time today and it is very frustrating.‘In La Salle’s half of the eighth, Brad Schneider worked a four-pitch walk from Little. Vogan then went to the bullpen for Jake Bufo, who was 7-0 on the season.Center fielder Jim Herron and Cuoci greeted Bufo with singles to load the bases. After Bufo got the first out on a Richter to catcher Turner force out, Brian Buckley laced a two-run single to right field for a 4-2 lead. Conestoga went down in order in the bottom of the eighth against reliever John Scheffey to end its dream of a second state title.”I am so proud of these kids,’ Vogan said. "Jake is the reason we are here, but he did not have it today. We are not going to ruin a kid’s arm to win a game and we could see Brendan laboring out there. We did not win today, but we are not losers. This was just a great group of kids.’
La Salle 4, Conestoga 2, 8 innings
LA SALLE ab r h bi CONESTOGA ab r h bi
Gregezek ss 3 1 0 0 Shirley cf 3 1 1 0
Schneider 2b 2 0 0 0 Marlino pr 0 0 0 0
Herron cf 3 2 1 1 Ogren 2b 2 0 0 0
Cuoci p 4 0 2 1 Richter ss 4 0 2 1
Williams pr 0 1 0 0 A. Born rf 4 0 1 0
Dermo c 3 0 0 0 S. Born dh 3 1 1 0
O’Neill pr 0 0 0 0 Turner c 4 0 0 0
Buckley 1b 3 0 2 2 Dolente 1b 4 0 2 0
Coonahan rf 3 0 1 0 Regan pr 0 0 0 0
McIntosh 3b 2 0 0 0 Ruffenach 3b 4 0 1 1
Arcadi 3b 2 0 0 0 Gagne lf 4 0 0 0
Scheffey p 0 0 0 0 Bufo p 0 0 0 0
Totals 27 4 7 4 Totals 32 2 8 2
LaSalle 101 000 02-4
Conestoga 000 110 00-2
La Salle IP R H BB SO
Cuoci 7 2 8 2 2
Scheffey, W 1 0 0 0 1
Little 7 2 4 4 4
Bufo, L 1 2 3 0 0
Little pitched to one batter in the eighth.