Bald Eagle Area baseball falls in District 6 playoffs

Bases loaded, no outs.

In the top of the seventh inning, Bald Eagle Area baseball set itself up for a comeback.

But like it had all evening, situational hitting — or a lack thereof — plagued the Eagles.

Noah Chambers struck out, Caleb Bell grounded into a double play, and BEA's season came to an end, as the Eagles couldn't rally in a 5-0 loss to Forest Hills in the first round of the PIAA Class AA District 6 playoffs.

No. 8 seed Forest Hills (14-7) advances to play No. 1 Bedford on Monday, while the 2016 campaign for No. 9 BEA (11-8) is over.

Eagles head coach Jim Gardner said the difference in the game was that of a few feet here and couple paces there — his team put the ball in play, but they didn't find holes like Forest Hills.

"Credit them for being tough with two strikes and tough with runners on base, making things happen," Gardner said of the Rangers. "They found ways to get it done."

That was certainly the case. BEA was 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, while Forest Hills took advantage when opportunities came around.

Especially in the third inning.

After generating a second-inning run off a sacrifice bunt and subsequent single, Forest Hills methodically put up four runs in the third.

No one had a home run, triple or double. In fact, the Rangers barely got the ball out of the infield.

But they did what was necessary.

Adam Cecere and Tanner Polinski singled to start the inning, and BEA starter Ryan Guenot, after forcing a pop out, walked Sam Vought to load the bags with one out.

Forest Hills' Nathan Kundrod used an infield single to score Cecere, Blake Ivock walked to plate Polinski, and Robbie Bambino hit a grounder just past BEA third baseman Hunter Eminhizer to score two more.

The Rangers didn't do anything too special, but their coach would take it.

"You have good teams in the playoffs, and you have to manufacture runs," Forest Hills coach Joe Carpenter said. "You have to get runs when you can get them, and I thought we did well with that."

Guenot rebounded from the frustrating inning. The senior right-hander threw 5 1/3 innings, and only allowed three hits after Bambino bested him.

But with how BEA was hitting, the damage was done.

The Eagles had no problem putting runners on base. BEA had at least one baserunner in every inning.

However, Polinski, Forest Hills' starter, saw to it that BEA remained scoreless.

Polinski had only four strikeouts in seven innings of work, but he induced 11 groundouts.

In Carpenter's words, he was grinding.

"He was exceptional," the Rangers coach said. "He wanted it...Mentally, he was tough."

While Gardner agreed, he was disappointed a few of BEA's hard-hit grounders didn't find gaps in the infield.

Regardless, the coach proudly reminisced on his team's season.

BEA played in 13 three-run games, and won eight of them. Plus, mid-season, the Eagles rattled off an eight-game winning streak.

Gardner was pleased his team not only accomplished those feats, but also stepped up to a challenge he made to them in preseason.

"As far as Bald Eagle sports with the boys (this year), we hadn't had a winning season...We really needed to save the year for Bald Eagle," Gardner said, misty-eyed. "And they did that."

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9