A sad end to a disappointing season: Baseball team falls 7-6

Game box score via Scorefinger

In a perfect world, the L-S baseball team, which entered its season finale against backyard rival Solanco with a record of 7-12 -- quite a disappointing clip for a team led by eight seniors who have won three New Era tournaments during their time playing together over the last eight years -- would have pulled out a victory on senior night in its last game on Pioneer Field. Unfortunately, the reality of the game of baseball struck, and the Pioneers lost 7-6 in nine innings after surrendering a 6-0 lead.

On a cloudy Wednesday during which the team finally held its benefit night for A Week Away (it had been rained out twice before), seniors Connor Brown, Colin Eckman, Alec Gordley, Garrett Groshong, Andrew Hay, Chase Nelle, Ben Rhoades, and Bear Shank were honored on the field before the game. This core had largely played together since the 12U level of Strasburg Willow Street baseball, and most players mentioned memories of New Era championships and gratitude for their coaches Steve Shank and Scott Eckman in the comments read over the public address.

It was Groshong who took the hill for the final game of the seniors' L-S baseball career, and as he has all season, he set the tone with a strike zone-pounding performance, holding Solanco hitless through the first three innings.

Meanwhile, L-S notched a run in the first inning when Eckman skied a double to right-center field to score Kris Pirozzi, who had previously stroked one down the left field line. The team did leave a man aboard, but established some much-needed confidence at the plate.

In the third inning, the team sent ten batters to the plate and scored five more runs off of just two hits -- a hit batsmen, two walks, and four errors by the Golden Mules contributed to the rally.

In the top of the fourth, though, the wheels came off.for the Pioneers. Groshong continued to pound the strike zone, but Solanco pounded the ball to the tune of five consecutive singles to start the inning, then a sacrifice fly and a strikeout before another single to bring home two runs, and a delayed steal of home tied the game at six.

The next several half innings proceeded quietly. L-S had an opportunity in the bottom of the sixth with runners on second and third with two outs, but Solanco's right fielder made a slick grab on a blooper down the right field line to quash the Pioneers' scoring attempt.

Aaron Jacoby came on in relief in the top of the seventh and promptly faced a bases loaded situation with no outs, but he fought back with a strikeout, a pop out, and another strikeout to work out of the jam and try to give the team's bats some momentum going into the bottom of the inning.

It started off well.

Eckman singled, but after the next two hitters -- Bubba Weigel and Rhoades -- each popped up, Bear Shank came to the plate and swung through three consecutive pitches to send the game into extra innings. It was a rough season for Shank at the plate; according to LSNews.org records, he posted a batting average of just .174 in home games including eight strikeouts in 23 at bats.

Nevertheless, Jacoby worked a 1,2,3 top of the eighth to give the Pioneers another opportunity, and again the leadoff batter got on base, but this time a fielder's choice, a strikeout, and a foul out retired the side before any runs came home.

Finally, in the ninth inning, Solanco found some luck of its own. After a leadoff groundout, new pitcher Kris Pirozzi walked the second hitter, who eventually reached second on a fielder's choice and reached third on a failed pickoff play (there was controversy surrounding a tag at third base, but coach Keith Martin's argument proved ineffectual), and ultimately, with two outs, a seemingly routine grounder to shortstop turned into a run when Shank's throw airmailed substitute first baseman Hunter Cunningham to bring home the run.

Clearly demoralized, the Pioneers went quietly in the ninth.

After the game, palpable disappointment manifested itself on the field as the team cleaned up the field following the game.

For a team that entered the season with such high expectations and was so accustomed to winning, posting a 7-13 record and falling just short in the season finale is certainly disappointing.

--Benjamin Pontz, LSNews.org Editor-In-Chief; Photos by Lauren Mast, LSNews.org Director of Sports Photography

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