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Even in defeat, Radnor able to appreciate special season

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP. >> As Connor Wilson and Andrew Austen trotted to the outfield for what was likely to be the final time in their high school careers, the conversation as they tossed the ball back and forth remained focused on baseball.

It was an idyllic scene — two close friends in Parkland High School’s sea of grass, far enough from the scoreboard that the five-run edge it showed for North Pocono didn’t spoil the vista. But even that result couldn’t dampen too harshly what the Radnor teammates had accomplished in their final season.

The ride came to an end Thursday, the District One champion Raiders (14-11) knocked off by the District 2-winning Trojans, 5-0, in the PIAA Class AAA quarters. For a program that blazed new postseason trails, the capper was just a day of baseball where the breaks didn’t go their way.

“We were talking about how it wasn’t so much that we played horribly but they just did pretty much everything they needed to do,” said Wilson, who’ll continue his career at the University of Dayton. “They got the hits when they needed them. That one first-and-third play, they got us on that. We were talking about how we didn’t really give the game away, they just outplayed us.”

Nearly three months into a baseball season that began with five consecutive losses and remote odds for Radnor’s campaign to accumulate a fraction of the accolades that they did, Thursday was just a day of baseball that didn’t go its way.

They were outhit, in quantity and quality. They made four costly errors and surrendered four unearned runs while North Pocono’s defense produced a flawless outing behind starting pitcher Charlie Lampeter.

In the second inning, for instance, North Pocono center fielder Pat Noon made a sensational diving catch on a sinking Martin Connor liner that could’ve sparked trouble. In the bottom half of the frame, Radnor shortstop Sean Mullarkey moved his glove at the last second on a liner off the bat of Pat Kravitz, the ball glancing off his mitt and allowing two runs to score. JP Walsh followed with an RBI double, making the mistake really hurt.

“That’s baseball,” Radnor starter Will Hoysgaard said. “We just didn’t have the bats today. It was an offensive game for their team, but we just didn’t bring it today, and we have every other game.”

Hoysgaard was the victim of the bad luck. He allowed five runs in five innings, the only earned tally when Monmouth commit Walsh, who went 3 for 3, singled with two down in the first, stole two bags and scored on Mark Cicerini’s Texas leaguer to second base.

Hoysgaard mishandled a Matt Fisch sacrifice in the fifth, and North Pocono cashed in when courtesy runner Mike Kowalski swiped home on a double steal behind the lefty’s back.

Radnor, meanwhile, got nothing going against Lampeter. The senior worked into the seventh, routinely missing the fat part of Radnor’s bats. He allowed four hits, all singles, three with two outs. Only once in seven innings did he allow the leadoff man to reach.

Ten of Lampeter’s outs were recorded in the air, five without leaving the infield. He mixed speeds ably, producing off-balance, looping swings that rarely produced loud contact.

“I like to throw the ball where they don’t want it to be thrown and try to get ahead in counts,” Lampeter said. “They’ll put the ball in play, but it won’t go anywhere.”

The third inning could have been his undoing, but instead turned into his most impressive stand. Pat Scheri led off with a hit-by-pitch, one of three plunkings for the nine-hole hitter, and Wilson blooped a single. With two on and Radnor’s lineup turning over, Lampeter summoned his only two strikeouts of the day, against Austen and Matt Schaefer, both looking, using the action on his off-speed pitches to probe the extremes of an oscillating strike zone.

In stepped Hoysgaard for a symbolically frustrating at-bat. The lefty turned on a fastball down the right-field line, foul by inches. On a 1-2 delivery, Hoysgaard lofted a ball to the warning track in right … only for Walsh to turn twice in the chase before corralling it two strides before the wall.

“When I came back in after the inning, I didn’t even know how many guys I struck out,” Lampeter said. “I was just in my zone, throwing pitches, trying to focus as much as I can.”

Radnor went from Wilson’s single in the third to Jack DeShan’s base knock in the sixth without a safety. Lampeter walked Mullarkey with one out in the seventh to end his day, and closer Cory Wall got the last two outs.

The final out, as at every season’s end, congregated Mark Jordan’s final huddle, then partitioned the Raiders’ two distinct factions. For nine seniors, the emotions of their astounding run, even at a wrenching end, skewed positive.

“Especially in that circle, I was definitely feeling a little bit emotional,” Wilson said. “I’ve played on a lot of teams, and I’ve never really seen a team like this being able to turn around like that. … We don’t look like a macho team. I look at these kids and I think it’s just amazing how they were able to bring us seniors this far.”

For the sizeable contingent of underclassmen, which includes Hoysgaard and reliever Charlie Connolly, the huddle concluded with gratitude for their elders and a new weight of expectations that this year’s success necessitates.

“I think it just sets the bar for next year,” Hoysgaard said. “We want to win a state championship next year. We have a really good team, really good kids coming up, so we’re ready for next year.”

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