ALLENTOWN >> The fairy tale ending doesn’t always happen.
Oley Valley’s emotional journey through the 2017 postseason ended Thursday evening in the PIAA 3A quarterfinals with a 4-3 loss to District 2’s Holy Redeemer, at Parkland High School.
The Lynx (18-5) fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning to the Royals, chipped away, fell back, then surged again. It wrapped with a strikeout: two runners on base, two outs.
The bottom of the sixth was a tantalizing tease. Trailing 4-3 with a run already home during the inning, Oley Valley loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a walk. But Pete Vaccaro’s screaming line drive was snared at shortstop for the third out.
In short, it was a rollercoaster of a ballgame — mirroring, in a sense, everything about the past two weeks.
Teammates and community were devastated by the loss of Preston Rowe in a car accident on May 24. Since that time, the Lynx have soldiered on in a way that should never be asked of the young.
“It was so hard on the community, the family; I mean, ‘hard’ isn’t even the word,” Oley Valley head coach Rick Harrison said. “It was devastating. For us to come together the way we did under such tragic circumstances, I couldn’t be prouder. To make it to states and the final eight, I couldn’t be prouder of the way these guys performed as young men.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through as a coach and as a parent. We’re probably together more with these guys during the course of the season than we are with our own families. When you lose one of your family, it’s devastating. To put it together between the lines with the effort we did, it just speaks volumes of the character of these young men.”
Oley Valley somehow managed to pull it together long enough to win some games. The journey first gained strength in the District 3 playoffs, where the Lynx defeated Biglerville 7-0 on May 26 in the semifinals to clinch a PIAA berth in the first game without their teammate.
Following a loss in the D-3 final to Lancaster Catholic, they outlasted Conwell-Egan 6-5 in a two-day, rain-afflicted PIAA first round affair that ended Wednesday evening to reach Thursday’s quarterfinal.
At Parkland, the Holy Redeemer Royals jumped on Oley starter Daymond Zweizig for three runs in the first on three hits and one Lynx error. Conversely, Oley bats were fairly silent against Jordan Choman first time through the lineup, with just one base hit through three frames.
The attack stirred in the bottom of the fourth. Consecutive singles from Gavin Blankenmiller and Andy Loeper opened the at-bat. Two batters later, Clark Williamson drove both of them with a double to left field to slice the deficit to 3-2.
Holy Redeemer responded with a run in the top of the fifth that held up, barely, as the game-winner. Robb McClay ripped a one-out single to right and plate Cade Flanley, who had drawn a walk against reliever Loeper and reached third base on a single and a sacrifice.
Vaccaro reflected upon his sixth-inning line drive that, had it been hit to a slightly different spot, could have rewritten the ending.
“A foot in any direction, it might have been two (runs), we’d have been up two or three,” Vaccaro said. “It happens.”
Vaccaro did not ponder the stakes while in the box.
“I have mental routines in the box that allow me to separate myself from the situation,” he said. “I was able to disconnect myself from the situation. I think that’s how you have to break it down. You can’t be caught up in the moment.”
Vaccaro did ponder, however, what this Oley Valley team meant to him and what he would want people to know.
“Our resiliency, our, fight, our determination in adversity,” he said, after taking a moment to compose himself. “It’s cliché, but a bond is formed in adversity. That’s all it is.
“We’ve gone through so much together, we are truly brothers. We fought through so much and we believed in each other to the end.”
PIAA 3A quarterfinal
at Parkland HS
Holy Redeemer 4, Oley Valley 3
Holy Redeemer – 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 — 4 11 1
Oley Valley – 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 — 3 9 2
WP: Jordan Choman LP: Daymond Zweizig
2B: OV, Clark Williamson; HR, Sean Wills