Central Mountain coaches embraced their senior players and thanked them after Monday’s heartbreaking 1-0, nine-inning Class 5A state semifinal loss to Bethel Park. As they did so, the underclass moved toward the excavation as the sun began to set in the distance.
The scene spoke volume. As a set of great players entered the sunset after helping Central Mountain enjoy one of the best seasons ever, the returning players packed their gear as they looked to the future. And as Central Mountain came closer than ever to reaching a state championship, the future could be mighty bright.
“We just told the young guys out there that we hope they took notes and looked at these guys and what they do to prepare to play well. There is no substitute for that. “ Said Central Mountain coach Mike Kramer. “There is a good young group participating in this program, and we look forward to them coming through and continuing the success we have had.”
Central Mountain was as successful as it has ever been in the last season. The Wildcats finished 18-6, captured a district championship for the third year in a row and reached the state finals for the second time in program history. Central Mountain did all of this after a 1-3 start, winning 17 of 19 games before coming so close to earning a spot at Penn State’s Medlar Field.
The Wildcats ran past their first three playoff opponents, beating them 31-0, beating two WPIAL opponents in states and setting a standard for future teams. Central Mountain did not win the state’s ultimate award, but it certainly achieved a lot. And just as impressive as what Central Mountain achieved was how it did it.
“The hat has everyone, the coaches, the players, the fans for everyone. We started roughly 1-3 early in the year, and then we won 17 of our last 19 matches and got all the way to the state half. “ said senior Aidan Major after throwing eight shutout innings on Monday. I can not say enough about this team and the way we fight and the will we have to continue throughout the season. There is no other baseball team I will ever do that with. ”
“I can not say enough good things about them,” Said Bethel Park coach Pat Zehnder. “They play the right way. It was an honor to be able to compete against them. ”
Central Mountain also did not lose Monday’s match. Bethel Park won it. Time and time again, Central Mountain players towed two-out balls that looked like they were going to produce two-out runs.
Twice right fielder Jason Nuttridge made spectacular dives and midfielder Eric Andrus became a terrific running catch on a Peyton Johnson laser hit against the warning track. Gabe Johnson almost put Central Mountain up 1-0 in the ninth inning when he hit a blooper in no man’s land down the left field line. Instead, shortstop David Kessler took a brilliant running catch that apparently covered half the earth to get there.
It was not the case that the feral cats failed to do their job. Only Bethel Park played defense just about as well as any high school team can. If they do not make just one of these pieces, Central Mountain will probably play on Thursday.
“They played solid defensively. We had a lot of baseball, some in the holes, and they played on them. “ In Kramer. “A few yards somehow could have made the difference in this game. We had runners on and we hit the ball solidly and it just did not work. ”
“The defense helps give confidence to our pitchers to be able to hit the zone, but they played even better than they usually do today,” he said. Sa Zehnder. “Fortunately, our guys managed to raise the opportunity and catch some balls that if they do not catch, we are several times more times.”
It took the Herculean defense effort to finally end the Central Mountain season. Still, the feral cats almost reached the top. Six senior beginners helped them reach the heights, including Major and catcher Cy Probst who will play in West Virginia and Maine next spring, respectively. The seniors leave a big void, but Central Mountain has become a multi-year winner. The names change, but the results do not, and underclassmen may be ready to take flight next spring.
Chase Brush and Cru Stover provided excellent pitching all season, and Stover also hit .353. First baseman Gabe Johnson hit .361, waved down the stretch and played excellent defense. Right-winger Cayde McCloskey belted with five doubles, and several others have shown strong flashes when called upon. The closet is far from bare and these players are workers, so a strong foundation is in place.
“I could not be more proud of a group of children and the way they fought and they fought. They had to face a lot of adversity this year and overcome it, and it goes far beyond the field, “ In Kramer. “The character of this group is amazing. I’m very happy to be a part of it and am just sad to see it end. Our senior class did an outstanding job, and they definitely left this program better than it was when they came in. ”
Now they have passed the baton, and the returning wildcats will try to complete what the seniors helped to start.