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Fleetwood falls to Indiana in PIAA Class 4A baseball semifinal [updated]

BELLEFONTE – Their loss to Indiana in a PIAA Class 4A baseball semifinal stung when it was over Monday.

The hurt will continue for a while, but once it dissipates the Fleetwood Tigers will smile and remember the magical run they made in the Berks League, District 3 and PIAA Tournament the last six weeks.

“I never thought we’d make it this far honestly,” senior catcher Dalton Young said. “It was kind of a Cinderella run. We did a great job and gave it our all.”

Playing in their first state semifinal, the Tigers lost 10-3 to Indiana at Governor’s Park.

Little Indians right-hander Ben Ryan pitched a four-hitter and ripped a three-run double in a four-run second inning against the Tigers (17-10), who made the deepest run in school history as the third-place team from District 3.

Indiana (16-10), the District 7 runner-up, will play Holy Ghost Prep for the 4A state title Thursday at 1:30 at Penn State’s Medlar Field. The Little Indians had never won a state tournament game before this season.

Fleetwood had defeated two District 7 teams, North Catholic and Montour, before falling against a team that swung the bats and pitched extremely well.

The Little Indians took a 7-0 lead in the third inning and collected 13 hits against senior right-hander Liam Hillburt (10-2) and two relievers. They struck out just three times in the first five innings.

“I don’t think he could have thrown a ball up there that they were going to miss,” first-year Tigers coach Jon Chwatek said. “They put contact on everything, whether it was a foul ball or a ball in play. They’re one good team.”

The bottom third of the Indiana order was productive. Kaden Homer, Ethan Shank and Tim Birch each had two hits, with Birch collecting two RBIs. Andrew McGee and Charlie Manzi also had two hits apiece.

Hillburt threw a five-hitter in Fleetwood’s first-round upset win over District 7 champ North Catholic and pitched five innings of relief for the victory against Montour in the quarterfinals.

Against Indiana, though, he allowed six runs in two-plus innings.

“They were just hitting everything no matter where it was pitched,” Hillburt said. “I was struggling to locate my pitches in the beginning. Even when I did, they were hitting everything. They were probably one of the best hitting teams we’ve faced all season.”

The Tigers mustered very little against the Quinnipac-bound Ryan outside their three-run fourth when Young had a two-run single and Hilburt an RBI infield single.

Other than that inning, Fleetwood had just two runners reach on a single by Hillburt in the second and a hit batsman in the seventh. Ryan was that dominant.

“He was tough,” Hillburt said. “He was probably in the high 80s with his fastball and had a good slider. He was tough to hit. He pitched well.”

Once Ryan struck out the final two batters, the Little Indians celebrated near the mound. The Tigers gathered around Chwatek, who offered them his thanks for the special season they had.

“I can’t even express how I feel right now,” Chwatek said, choking back tears. “I have too much pride in these guys.”

Fleetwood traveled far to play three PIAA Tournament games, the first one to suburban Pittsburgh and the last two to Bellefonte. On the bus ride home following each win this season, Chwatek or one of his assistants posted a video of the players singing, dancing and laughing.

Maybe there were a few smiles on the way home Monday night. After all, they became only the second Fleetwood baseball team to reach the state playoffs, following the 2008 team, and the first to win twice.

“I’m glad we made it this far,” Young said. “We made history. It sucks right now, but I will definitely be more proud than sad (in the future).”

Nine seniors played their final game for the Tigers.

“The hardest part is leaving my friends who I’ve been with my whole life,” Young said. “They’re my boys.”

The Tigers might have fallen one win short of playing in a state championship game, but their dreams came true.

“I wanted to have an amazing season with these boys,” Hillburt said. “That’s what we did.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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