ASTON >> Eric Marasheski paced the shortstop’s place on the field at Neumann University, hoping to add a couple more moments to his time in a La Salle uniform.
About 15 minutes earlier, Marasheski and his Explorers teammates saw their dream season come to an end in a 5-4, eight-inning loss to Bensalem in the PIAA 6A baseball semifinals as the Owls got to continue their own dream season. It was a wrenching ending for the La Salle seniors, who led the program to its best season since 2014, but fell two wins short of their ultimate goal.
Still, for Marasheski and his classmates, the emotion wasn’t over the loss but the fact they wouldn’t ever get to take the same field in the same uniform again.
“These teammates are guys I’m never going to forget,” Marasheski said. “Years from now, I’ll forget wins and losses but it’s the team that you’re going to miss. That’s why I’m so emotional right now, because I won’t get to play with these guys ever again.”
La Salle graduated on May 26, but the baseball team was still together for at least a few hours every day after that whether it was practice or a game. Many of the Explorers seniors are playing at the next level, but not all of them, which Marasheski said added to the emotional ending.
Some of the seniors like Marasheshki, Andrew and Anthony Cossetti and Brian Schaub, were impact guys for multiple seasons. Others, like ace pitcher Joe Miller, outfielder Joe Sortino and center fielder Shane Manieri, broke into larger roles this season.
“This is such a close-knit group, we’re all tight and some of my best friends are on this team,” senior outfielder Joe Sortino said. “Everybody is more upset about leaving each other than the loss.”
La Salle started eight seniors in its nine batting spots all postseason, but there were even more seniors who accepted lesser roles as reserves or bench players just to be part of the team. Hunter McGarvey, who has committed to Richmond, spent the year as a backup catcher behind Andrew Cossetti or as a spot reliever, never knowing if or when he’d get into a game.
Explorers coach Kyle Werman said the thing that stuck out to him about the senior class was how those guys got the team to prepare and play every game the same way.
“This senior class is probably one of the most talented that La Salle has had, a lot of guys were on varsity early, so we’ve been together for a while,” Andrew Cossetti said. “This year, we decided to go out with a bang and we played well all throughout the season. It was tough to see it end like this.
“When you have guys as talented as them being able to take those roles and know what they can do for the team, it makes everybody’s job easier and the team that much better.”
The seniors also felt unfulfilled at the start of the season, having not advanced out of the opening round of the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs in their first three years. Sortino said that was all the motivation they needed to get through offseason workouts and the like and fueled that preparation.
Their work paid off as La Salle finished the regular season atop the PCL standings, went on to win its first PCL tournament title since 2013, won the District 12 title and advanced to the state semifinals in its first state appearance since 2014. None of the active players had done any of that, and by all measure, it was a strong season.
On Tuesday, the Explorers seniors knew that, but also weren’t ready to think about it yet.
“It goes beyond the game of baseball,” Cossetti said. “It’s about family here at La Salle and that’s what we were, a family. We all connected through baseball and I call these guys my brothers, I’m sad to see them go.”
Werman noted most teams end on a loss and understood the emotions the entire team showed after the end of Tuesday’s contest. It will be a vastly different looking La Salle team next year but Werman felt the seniors left a strong legacy that should shape the program in coming seasons.
“We played the same baseball every day and that’s hard to do in high school baseball,” Werman said. “Our guys composed themselves to allow us to have a chance to win every time we stepped on the field. For our young guys, we have a group of juniors and a sophomore in this group along for the ride and my hope is they can pick up how our seniors carried themselves every day.”
“Being a senior-heavy group put the juniors in hard spot because there’s a lot of talented juniors there who could be playing but I think we tried to set a good role model for them,” Marasheski said. “We talked about it all year, being a team and that’s why it hurts so much because we were a team and were so close-knit.”
Sortino, who is attending Villanova and hoping to walk on the baseball team there, went out with a 4-for-4 day out of the No. 8 spot while fellow senior Matt Acker had three sac bunts and a single in the No. 9 spot. Both players could easily hit higher on many other lineups but embraced their roles as part of a winning team.
While his time at La Salle is up, Sortino noted a lot of the players are staying relatively close for college and the entire season is one he’ll remember for years to come.
“I came to varsity as a junior, most of my close friends were there as sophomores but it just allowed us to become closer,” Sortino said. “I developed those friendships a lot and even the juniors coming up this year became close friends with us in the senior class. I hope they’re able to keep the comraderie in the dugout and how well we got along.
“We kept it loose all season long, even in a game like this down to the end. In prior seasons, we’d tighten up and things would go bad but this year we kept it loose, had fun and we were winning games.”
Both Cossetti and Marasheski agreed with Sortino that they’d stay close with their teammates no matter if it were one, five, 10 or more years down the road. It’s also what prompted the shortstop, one last time, to feel dirt under his cleats in a La Salle uniform.
“I just didn’t want it to end, I wanted one last view, one last feel out there,” Marasheski said. “That’s what made it so emotional at the end, thinking of my teammates.
“It hurts right now, it’s probably going to hurt for a while but I know when I think back on it, I’ll be happy with what we were able to accomplish.”