UNIVERSITY PARK — Sometimes it only takes just one and Friday night one hit was all that the Devon Preparatory School needed to fend off Elk County Catholic 2-1 in nine innings to capture the PIAA Class A Championship.
One hit. One, was all that the Tide needed in order to get past the Crusaders. Maybe even more impressive than their lone hit was the way that Devon Prep generated their offense. They did it with small ball, mainly aggressive base running and eventually forced Elk County Catholic to literally throw their season away.
A leadoff walk started off the bottom half of the ninth inning for the Tide, but their good fortunes would soon turn to bad. The next batter struck out and Chris Bauers registered a fielders choice trying to get a base hit with a bunt. All of a sudden a one on with no outs turned into a one on with two outs. But it is what Bauers did from there that made all the difference.
The senior center-fielder stole second and a few pitches later he tried to swipe third. His aggressive base running caught the Crusaders off guard and a rushed throw from the catcher to the third baseman forced an error and allowed Bauers to pick himself out of the dirt and fly home. As soon as he touched the plate, he was greeted by his teammates the much to the disgust of Elk County Catholic, the celebration was on.
“We played aggressively all year,” Devon Prep coach Mark Aquilante said. “Our assistant coach who’s down there at third base Pat Kane deserves a lot of credit for the mentality of the kids. We’ve made so much progress as a program over the last four, five years. When I first started, we played a lot of small ball and that’s what I’m comfortable with.
“Going into the season in order for us to advance after we lost last year, we just needed to play a different style with the team we had, and he’s much more suited to that than I am. He’s been down there all year, he calls the game and he did a phenomenal job in every situation today and that was one of them. Chris is our best base stealer and I know exactly what he was looking for. If we steal a base great, if they throw it away great, if they throw him out no big deal, and if he steals the bag and they don’t throw it away, we’re a passed ball away from winning. It was a great gamble in that situation and it worked.”
It took the Tide until the bottom half of the sixth inning to finally push one across the plate, but when they did it gave them the hope that eventually they would catch a break and finally in the ninth it did.
For the Crusaders, the loss was gut wrenching and after the error that allowed Bauers to score, you could tell by the players reactions that they knew they should have won that game.
Miscues and the inability to execute really cost the maroon and gold from St. Mary’s and their coach knew that a run erased off the board in the top of the first on a tag up where the runner left early really hurt the Crusaders in the end.
“We should have been ahead 3-0 heading into the bottom inning, just missed some key stuff that’s all, the tag up at third was huge,” Elk County Catholic coach Eric Vogt said. “We just hit the ball right at them, a lot of fly balls in the outfield. A lot of missed opportunities, I think that was the game.”
It was the first blemish on what was a perfect season up until this point for the Crusaders and a win that shocked many, but not the Tide.
“I think I believe it just because I think we put stuff together, we’re a good team and we find ways to score runs,” Bauers said. “I thought we found a way to win today and we did.”