READING >> It was one of those classic clashes of Youth vs. Experience.
Thursday afternoon, with District 3’s first Class 5A championship up for grabs, Youth — in the form of Cedar Cliff — got the better of Experience (i.e. Daniel Boone). The Colts edged the Blazers, 3-2, at FirstEnergy Stadium in the first game of a district-title doubleheader that included 6A semifinalists Governor Mifflin and Dallastown.
An interesting post-game activity saw the Colt players and coaches pose for a team photo … each with his gold medal in his mouth. CC’s head coach, Scott Lackey, was only half-joking in his explanation of the pose.
“We wanted to make sure they were real,” he said. “I’m not sure how we did this.”
Cedar Cliff (19-5) did it with a roster listing only five seniors among the team’s 16 players. But the youngsters made the most of the opportunity.
In a game where all the run production took place in the fourth inning, the Colts meshed three of their eight hits with a walk and hit batter to break up the 0-0 affair. Boone (16-6) got two of the runs back in its half of the frame, but it went through 1-2-3 at-bats the rest of the way — most notably in the fifth inning — to end up the district’s runner-up.
“Especially with the top of the order coming up,” Blazer head coach Jason McCord noted. “We left them off the hook.”
Standing at the top of Cedar Cliff’s seven-sophomore ranks was pitcher Trey Law. He was masterful on the mound, scattering four hits and one walk while striking out five.
“This was his first start of the year,” Lackey said of Law, whose previous action this spring was primarily on the program’s junior-varsity team. “We gave the ball to him because he’s a competitor. We know he’ll give everything he has.”
Law also stood tall at the plate, driving in the Colts’ first run with a single to center. Classmates Bobby Whalen (single), Justin Resto (hit by pitch) and Donovan Ball (single, two RBI) figured prominently in their team’s run production, too.
“We’ve had six sophomores play,” Lackey said. “A lot of people don’t understand that. Through our whole run, we’ve started five.”
Boone and its seven-senior roster, two days removed from a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Manheim Central in a district semifinal, wasn’t able to duplicate the magic of that inspired win. Other than the fourth, the Blazers saw Brendan Rivoli — he doubled to left in the first inning — the only other player to get into scoring position.
A 3-6 double play by the Colts in the sixth thwarted Boone’s last chance to catch up.
“He (Law) did a good job keeping our hitters off balance,” McCord said. “We didn’t get many good swings. Offensively, we didn’t execute.”
Joey Moyer, whose groundout to shortstop enabled Devon Garner to score the Blazers’ first run, concurred on the assessment.
“He was working away and trying to keep us of balance and worked backwards,” Moyer said of Law. “He kept it outside and worked backwards with curves early.”
Cedar Cliff got its ultimate game-winning lead with Bobby Whalen and Law hitting back-to-back singles after Maddux Ryan drew a one-out walk, Law’s hit to left-center plated Ryan.
After Resto was hit by pitch to get on base, Ball hit a liner to the mound that glanced off Boone pitcher Zach Brightbill’s leg and went into right field, scoring both Whalen and Law’s courtesy runner, Colin Dorrell. Brightbill was checked out for possible injury but continued to pitch until the sixth, when he was replaced by Connor Cleaver after plunking Law and Resto in succession.
Cleaver and the Blazer defense got out of the frame unscathed, even after Cliff loaded the bases with Chris Dare’s single to left. A suicide-squeeze bunt by Grant Breneman was fielded by Cleaver, who threw to Rivoli at the plate to force the second out.
“I don’t think anybody could imagine us doing what we did against this (Daniel Boone) club,” Lackey said. “I thought we’d need five runs to win, but three proved to be enough.
“This is a huge step,” he added. “You can define a program by a game like this.”
Boone’s fourth-inning runs were set up by Devon Garner hitting a leadoff single, and Ty Esenwein getting hit by pitch. One out later, Moyer’s grounder to shortstop enabled Garner to score, and Robert Kurtz followed with a single to left that brought Esenwein home.
The Blazers now look to a first-round state-playoff pairing Monday against the District 11 champion, at a site and time to be announced. Cedar Cliff, in turn, opens against the District 7 runner-up.
“It’s like anything else … the start of a new season,” McCord said. “Every day is a great day with these guys. They’re so much fun to be around.”
NOTES >> A total of six batters were hit by pitches. Boone’s Esenwein got plunked twice, as did Cedar Cliff’s Resto. … Defensively, Boone third-sacker Carson Zuber made a leaping catch of Dare’s shot in the third inning. And Rivoli teamed with Moyer to throw out Tommy Savastio when the Colt first-baseman tried to steal second in the first inning.