It ended too quickly for the Faith Christian baseball team.
The Lions saw their season come to a close on Monday with a 5-4 loss to Halifax in the first round of the PIAA Class A tournament at Immaculata University.
Halifax jumped ahead in the top of the first inning. The first batter, Tyler Berzowski, singled, then Hunter Zimmerman drew a walk to set up a three-run home run by Nathan Blasick with no outs.
Lions starter Josiah Smith settled down and got the next three batters out, but the damage was done.
“Hats off to Halifax,” Faith Christian coach Ed Curry said. “They played a great game. At the end of the day, one misplaced pitch is what cost us the game but that’s not anything to take away from them because they took advantage of it.”
The Wildcats added another run in the top of the second inning when Dylan Wells hit a leadoff single, stole second and came home on an RBI single by Ryan Stahl.
That closed the book on Smith, who ended the day surrendering four runs on four hits, one walk and one strikeout.
“Nobody is more disappointed than I am,” said Smith, who will play at Geneva College next season. “We were solid all year. We just got outplayed in this game. A couple of people had some shaky performances including myself. I’m just sad to see it end.
“It was the best year we’ve ever had. Even though we went one round further in states last year, I think the team was closer and just more solid. Those are the things I’ll remember and winning districts.”
Carter Heller took over on the mound for Faith Christian. In four innings of work, he gave up no runs, two hits, fanned six and walked four.
Aidan Fretz also pitched one and two-third innings and was tagged for the loss for the Lions, giving up one run on one hit and walking two.
The Lions got on the board in the third inning when Bryce Binder led off by reaching base on an error. He scored when Peyton Curry reached base on an error.
Faith Christian had a three-run rally in the fourth inning.
Curry led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch. Heller reached base on an error, then was replaced by courtesy runner Brendon Moyer. Jacob Davis followed with a single and the Lions had the bases loaded with no outs.
They scored their first run of the frame when Fretz hit a ball that was initially ruled a catch by center fielder Berzowski. An appeal to the first base umpire overturned the call, which was ruled a trap. By rule each runner can only advance one base, so Curry scored and the Lions were within two.
“I tip my hat to my guys,” Ed Curry said. “They didn’t give up when they were down 4-0. They battled back. The momentum was shifting and they fought to the end. That’s all I can ask.”
A single by Jared Forscht scored Moyer and Davis and suddenly the game was tied, 4-4.
“Our goal was the state championship, as it was last year,” said Heller, a senior who will play at Harford Community College in Maryland next year. “We came up short but that’s baseball. It came down to the seventh. It is what it is. I didn’t expect to come in to pitch as early as I did. Thought it would be in the fourth. I didn’t expect it to be in the second but it’s happened before. It happened in the district semifinal game. You just have to be ready.
“It was impressive on our guys’ part to bring it back and make it 4-4.”
Halifax scored the winning run in the top of the seventh on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
Halifax (16-8), the District Three runner-up, advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals, where the Wildcats will take on District Six runner-up St. Joseph’s, a 5-0 winner over District Five titlist Forbes Road.
Faith Christian, the District One champion for the third consecutive year, ends the season 17-4.
“Next year they’ll come back,” said Forscht, who will play at Susquehanna next year. “We were down early, we came back strong with no outs and bases loaded and we strung a few key hits together so I’m proud of our effort.
“We had a really good brotherhood this year and we had our best record as a team so this was a really successful year.”
Faith Christian reached the state quarterfinals last year.
“You hope every year you go one step further,” Curry said. “Not to take anything away from the previous teams but this was probably the most successful season all-around. We didn’t come home with a trophy but at the end of the day the trophy doesn’t define you. It’s the brotherhood that they’ve built.”
The Lions will return eight players next year.
“This was a great experience for our younger players,” Curry said. “It was just a great baseball game.”