FREDERICKSBURG — The Greencastle-Antrim baseball team came up just one win short of a chance to play for a PIAA championship.
The Blue Devils couldn’t solve the offerings of Strath Haven pitcher Alex Pak, who threw a three-hitter, and were defeated by the Panthers 2-0 in a Class 5A semifinal game Thursday evening at Wenger Field.
While Strath Haven (22-4) moves on to face Shaler for a state title Thursday, Greencastle finishes an outstanding season with a 19-6 record.
“We played well; both teams played a great game,” G-A coach Eric Shaner said. “Their kid (Pak) was really good. He probably threw the same pitch 100 times — low and away — and that’s the hardest pitch to hit. When he did miss, we hit it hard. We had three balls hit to the warning track.”
The Blue Devils produced a threat in the top of the first inning when Ryan Farrow and Aidan Grudzinski each knocked out singles. With runners at first and third, Darren Kline hit a line drive to the hole at short, but the Panthers’ shortstop caught it on the bounce and threw to first to just beat Kline to the bag.
Later in the game, Carter McCauley ripped a pitch toward the shortstop hole, but the third baseman laid flat out to make a sizzling catch. The next batter, Logan Shifflett, then bombed a shot to the fence in left-center on a hanging slider for a double that would have likely scored McCauley.
“We did have chances, but they made two great defensive plays,” Shaner said.
Shaner had a decision to make regarding his pitching: start ace Jace Szaflarski, who started the previous game, or go with Landon Huth.
“Jace was eligible to pitch, but I didn’t want to run him into the ground,” Shaner said. “But Huth pitched really well. He did an awesome job. They had scored 24 runs in their first two PIAA games, so we held them down.”
The Panthers scored one run in the bottom of the fourth and another in the fifth, and Pak did the rest. He did not walk a batter and he retired 10 G-A batters on strikes.
Adam Horst came on to pitch a hitless sixth inning for Greencastle.
Shaner said, “We had a 1-2 start to the season and people outside the program were worried. But the guys inside never let it get to them. The seniors showed improved leadership and they turned it around. The seniors took control of the team. I hope the young guys can take ownership of next year’s team.
“We faced a lot of adversity late in the year (with injuries), but I’m so proud of how theses guys played.”