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North Penn can’t finish rally, falls to Council Rock North in District 1-AAAA final

thornbury — Chasing championship dreams is hard enough. But chasing down an opponent in order to make those hard-fought hopes a reality is as hard as it gets.

The North Penn baseball was unable to come back from its slow start at Glen Mills School and was unable to capture the District 1-AAAA championship.

With its 4-3 win over the Knights, 15th-seeded Council Rock North claimed the coveted trophy, its first district title since 2010.

Both teams were rolling come into Thursday’s game, the Knights (18-4 overall) had their 10-game win streak snapped and the Indians had won eight of their last nine, their only loss being a non-leaguer to Germantown Academy.

“We were right there with one of the best teams in the state and that should give us a ton of confidence going into next week in states,’ Knights coach Kevin Manero said. “We did not win, but I don’t think we left anything behind. We put it all out there and played hard.’

With both teams rolling, it was big the Indians got the first two runs across in the third inning. Kellen Williamson suffered his first loss of the season — he was 7-0 entering the game — as he allowed eight hits in three innings. His counterpart, Noah Hartwell, led off the inning with a double and came in to score on a bloop single from Matt Hand.

“Everyone was hitting the ball hard,’ North Penn senior outfielder Zach Zeigler said. “We had a chance at the end and just could not get it done today. We have to shake it off.’North Penn was looking to claim its fourth District 1 title, having won in 1984, 2005 and 2008. The second-place finish has the Knights facing District 12 runner-up Olney in the first round of the PIAA Tournament Monday at a site and time to be announced. Council Rock North meets District 3’s third-place finisher Governor Mifflin.

The last time a District 1-AAAA team won both a district and state championship was 2003 when West Chester East pulled off the trick. Since then four District 1 teams have won a PIAA championship without a district crown in their possession. Those teams were West Chester Henderson, Conestoga, and North Penn twice — 2009 and 2013.

“You have use everything you have and leave nothing in the tank,’ Manero said. “I felt like we played like that today. Next Monday, our third season starts and that tournament is just as tough. Have to be ready Day One. I know we will be.’

Williamson was replaced by Collin Healey, who did all he could to keep the game close. His three innings of three-hit ball was almost enough to allow the Knights to rally back. A Zeigler RBI single made it 2-1 in the fourth. Zeigler added an RBI double in the sixth to keep the fourth-seeded Knights in striking distance.

“It was a great job by Collin keeping things close, coming out of the bullpen,’ Manero said. “We put ourselves in a position to win. The way we have played this year, most of the time we will win those games.’

Zeigler did not play in Tuesday’s semifinal win over West Chester East. He was ejected in the quarterfinals against Boyertown after forgetting to slide at home plate, which is mandatory in PIAA baseball. Zeigler welcomed the chance to start in the championship game and felt great during pre-game.

“It was hard to sit down against West Chester East,’ Zeigler said. “I was jittery on the bench and really wanted to get out there. Our team got it done. I felt great to come out here, play the field, and play strong.’

Zeigler felt great during pre-game and he sensed his team was about to bring home their first district crown in seven years. Even though Mason Nadeau singled with two outs in the seventh inning, Zeigler’s initial sense was still wrong. Indians closer Brandon McIlwain got the Knights’ top hitter, Jared Melone, to fly out to first base to clinch the title.

“We came in wanting to win,’ Zeigler said. “It’s all right in the end, because we will be back Monday ready to win states.’

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