St. Joseph’s memorable postseason ride came to a tough end Thursday.
The underdog Wolves fell 3-2 to Halifax in nine innings in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class A Baseball Championships at Central Columbia’s field. The loss ended St. Joseph’s Cinderella season while propelling Halifax to the semifinals, where it’ll take on Greenwood on Monday.
“It was just a tough loss,” coach Jim Dinsmore said. “We didn’t play as cleanly as we needed.”
SJCA (9-10) played a tight game until the end, when an error unraveled its work. With two outs and runners on first and second, Halifax (17-8) hit a grounder up the middle — but the ball was mishandled, thrown away by about a foot, and the winning run crossed the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
It was a heartbreaking end to a memorable season. But Dinsmore preferred to look at the positives.
SJCA started the year at 1-6 before turning its season around. The small school, in just its fifth year of even having a baseball program, entered the district tournament as the sixth and final seed and finished as the runner-up — after losing the rain-shortened district title game, 4-3. It also won its first-ever state playoff game, with a 6-2 victory over Forbes Road on Monday.
It wasn’t the ending Dinsmore or the Wolves wanted. But, seven games into the year, this is the type of season they hoped for.
“We had a nice run, and we played some tough teams,” Dinsmore added. “Early on, I told them to have faith. We had a lot of injuries ... and once we got (Zane Thornburg and RJ Marsh) back, things started to come together.”
Marsh was especially busy Thursday. The SJCA coaching staff knew Halifax tended to pull balls to the right, so Marsh — the right fielder — was prepared and rose to the occasion. On offense, Jack Mangene led the way with two hits while Cam Burris and Ben Macafee each had RBIs. And, on the mound, Mangene pitched four shutout innings while Burris came in and struck out nine in 4.2 frames.
Thursday’s performance, and postseason run, was a team effort. But mistakes also played an important role. St. Joseph’s twice couldn’t score with the bases loaded and, despite leading 2-0, SJCA allowed two runs to tie it up. Halifax’s first run came from a player who initially found his way on base on a passed ball, and the second run came from a wild pitch.
Still, back-to-back state playoff berths for St. Joseph’s is a reason to think the program has potential. Dinsmore praised his seniors — including Matt Steyers, Thornburg, Mangene, Macafee, Ryan Peachy, Marsh, Jason Thomas and Max Krasowitz — and said a big reason for the Wolves’ success has been the standard they set.
“When I first came here four years ago, I met those freshmen and thought, ‘What a group of kids,’” Disnmore said. “I’m really proud of the guys. I love them all, and they’ve been great.”