RED LION >> As he tried to wrap up a special season, Hatboro-Horsham baseball coach Pete Moore went back to before it had even started.
Prior to the season, Moore had met with each of his players individually. Most of them said they wanted to chase an Suburban One League American Conference title, contend for districts and make states. It was what senior Ryan O’Donnell was willing to do that gave Moore insight on what kind of team he was going to have.
Hatboro-Horsham’s special ride came to an end Monday in an 8-1 loss to District 3 champion Dallastown in the first round of the PIAA 6A playoffs at Red Lion High School.
The Hatters had a long final meeting in the outfield, one that ended with a lot of handshakes and hugs. To those guys, this was more than a team.
“It was nice to have one last talk with my family,” senior center fielder Eddie Schultz said. “I love these guys. I’ve been playing with them for years and years and for it to come to an end like this, I couldn’t have asked for a better run. I love these guys to death.”
While the Hatters scored first, with senior Colin Kennedy’s sac fly driving in Schultz, they would have no answer for Dallastown pitcher Nick Parker after the third inning. Parker, a junior right-hander with a verbal pledge to Coastal Carolina, showed his pedigree with a great outing.
Parker allowed just two hits and retired 18 of the last 19 batters he faced. He also added a two-run triple as part of Dallastown’s five-run sixth inning that broke open what had still been a close game.
“That kid on the mound, he was really good, he really did well locating his off-speed stuff and mixing it up,” Kennedy said. “Hitting that early sac fly, I really thought there was going to be more after getting that one run up. Brian (Edgington), he dominated all game. He gave up a few runs but they could hit a little bit.”
Getting back to that meeting with O’Donnell prior to the season, it was one where the senior sat down in front of his coach and said his ultimate goal was to win. The team’s shortstop and maybe its best player last season, O’Donnell knew freshman Jake Bianchini could step in at short and help the team, so the senior offered to change positions.
O’Donnell ended up playing third base all season and had the team’s only other hit Monday, a booming shot to center that hopped the fence for a ground-rule double.
“Before I even said anything to him, he said to me ‘all I want to do is win this year and if that means I move to get Jake in at shortstop, I’m OK with that,’” Moore said. “To have a senior come to me and show that kind of selfless attitude, it told me all I needed to know about the attitude of this team, to have a leader come and say that. It was a special group.”
The Hatters had 11 total seniors on the roster and they’ve practically been lifelong teammates. Kennedy estimated the group has been playing together since they were about six years old and their relationship wasn’t limited to the field.
“We did a lot together, if we went somewhere after a win or wanted to do work after a loss, we were always together,” Kennedy said. “It’s something I’m never going to forget. Working these last four years, it hasn’t just been this last four years with them, we’ve played together since we were six and it was something that was really special. Coming in with this many seniors, we knew we couldn’t take it for granted.”
Despite all their preseason talk, the Hatters started the year 2-4 and knew they had to get themselves together. Schultz said a team meeting helped air everything out, he was added on as a captain and after that, everything clicked.
Behind Edington, Kennedy and Alex Crim, the Hatters pitching was nearly untouchable, they soared to the SOL American title and earned the No. 2 seed in districts.
“We all talked about how great of a ride we had,” O’Donnell said. “After going 2-4 to start the season, we really locked it down. It was really amazing, the ride we had and how we were always able to bounce back. It was like that from the beginning, the winter workouts and all that, we formed a family bond and had it all year.”
This was just the second team in Moore’s 16 seasons to qualify for states and the veteran coach thanked his players for taking him along for the ride. Kennedy likewise said he was honored to be part of just the second group to win a league title and make states under Moore and will carry that memory as he goes to play at La Salle next year.
“It set in already, doing what I could, I still wish I could have done more,” Schultz said. “We all put our hearts into it and left everything on the field.”
“It was just an outstanding season,” O’Donnell said. “I’m going to remember the family bond we had. This year was the most fun I’ve ever had on a baseball field. I’ll remember it forever.”
The Hatters will return some key players including Crim and Bianchini and Kennedy said he hopes they can keep building on what this year’s team accomplished. The seniors tried to make the underclassmen feel included and a part of their family, something they hope gets passed on.
Regardless of how it ended, nobody that was a part of this Hatters team will be forgetting any of it any time soon.
“We formed memories that are going to last a lifetime,” Kennedy said. “To do it with all my brothers, to battle with them every day, practice, games, we really had something going. It’s sad it’s coming to an end, but it was really something special. We wanted more than we were given, so we came out and gave more. We battled all the way to here, so I’m very proud of what we’ve done.”
DALLASTOWN 8, HATBORO-HORSHAM 1
HATBORO-HORSHAM 100 000 0 – 1 2 1
DALLASTOWN 002 015 x – 8 10 1
WP: Nick Parker. LP: Brian Edgington. 2B: Eddie Schultz (HH), Ryan O’Donnell (HH) 3B: Nick Parker (D), Joe Capobianco (D)