The Bishop McCort baseball team tasted the sweetness of winning last year in its pursuit of the PIAA Class A title.
The Crimson Crushers experienced the bitterness of defeat Friday afternoon, ending their 11-game postseason win streak with a 7-6 loss to Johnsonburg in an 11-inning PIAA quarterfinal-round contest at Rich Kuntz Field.
There were plenty of missed opportunities for McCort, which stranded 17 runners in the extra-inning marathon.
“Really, that is what killed us,” said Crushers’ coach Chris Pfeil about the potential runs left on base. “We had opportunities early in the game that we didn’t capitalize on.”
McCort (20-5) left 10 runners on base in innings two through six, including advancing a runner to third with one out in the fourth and being unable to plate him.
“Unfortunately we had guys on third base with less than two outs and we struck out and those kill you,” Pfeil said. “The approach at the plate is that you have to be able to get the ball in play to get the runs home. It’s just uncharacteristic. It’s something we’re very good at and today we just weren’t.”
The Crushers also had chances to put the game away in the eighth, 10th and 11th innings.
In the top of the 11th with one out, Dan Formica stretched a well-hit ball to right which got past the Rams’ Devon Zilcoski, into a triple.
Relief pitcher Quinn Luhr struck out Jeremy Adams then walked Nemo Trexler, who stole second. With both runners in scoring position, Luhr coaxed a fly out by Justin Vardian to shortstop/starting pitcher Cole Peterson which ended the McCort threat.
“We had opportunities in the extra innings that we didn’t capitalize on with guys on base,” Pfeil said.
Peterson scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th on Luhr’s single to deep center field to win the game for the never-say-die Rams (17-3, who will face California, a 6-3 winner over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on Monday in the semifinals.
“They hold their composure real well,” Johnsonburg coach Jeff Peterson said. “I kept telling the kids that it wasn’t over. We’ve been in difficult situations in other sports and have been in plenty of big situations. There is no quit in these guys. These kids have played in big American Legion games and in the state basketball championship.”
Six of the nine Rams starters were the starting six for the hoops squad that was the Class A runner-up in Hershey.
“They know how to win and they are not quitters, Peterson said. “They know how to compete. Look at the size of our kids. They are half the size of other teams that we played, but they don’t back down and they don’t quit. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog. We don’t have a big team, but what we have, is enough to keep us going. They have a lot of heart and play to win.”