RED LION — Cedar Cliff kept waiting for its offensive breakout Monday, the type that occurred almost daily during what has been an historic season for the Colts.
Lampeter-Strasburg pitcher Dylan Byler had no intention of granting Cedar Cliff that opportunity.
Byler was brilliant on a drizzly and foggy day at Red Lion High School, twirling a complete-game one-hitter to lead his Pioneers to a 3-0 victory over Cedar Cliff in a PIAA Class 5A baseball semifinal game.
The outing pushes L-S, the No. 4 seed out of District 3, into Thursday’s state championship game against the winner of Red Land vs. Blue Mountain. That semifinal was delayed to Tuesday because of rain across the state that knocked out all games except the Colts-Pioneers clash.
It's been 29 years since Red Land last made the state championship game. Standing in their way of a return is District 11's Blue Mountain.
“Warming up in the bullpen I didn’t feel too good, I was slipping everywhere,” Byler said. “Once I got out on the good mound I felt good from the jump.”
The senior right-hander kept the District 3 champion Colts off-balance with an effective mix, including a slider that he spotted with regularity.
“He located everything,” Cedar Cliff head coach Scott Lackey said. “Curveball, slider, whatever that pitch was, we couldn’t pick it up, and it really was a problem for us to see the difference between a fastball and curveball. The kid really did a great job. Obviously, we had one hit. You can’t win games with one hit, not at this time of year.”
Byler retired the first 10 hitters he faced before Trey Law’s one-out single in the fourth inning broke up the no-hitter. With Byler dealing, the question became what support would he get from his offense.
Cedar Cliff starter Joseph Matter worked out of trouble throughout the first three innings, including striking out back-to-back hitters to end the L-S second with the bases loaded.
You have free articles remaining.
The Pioneers finally broke through in the fourth, though, when Patrick Holmes singled home Hunter Cunningham who led off the inning with a double.
Still, that one-run lead could be erased with one swing. But L-S tacked on a single run in the sixth on an RBI single by Connor Blantz and did so again in the seventh when Braedon Karpathios led off with a double and scored on Cunningham’s sacrifice fly. It proved plenty for Byler, who retired the final 11 hitters in order thanks in part to the slider.
“I just added that to my game this year,” Byler said. “Adding that in with the 12-6 curveball I throw is big, and with my two-seam. It’s just all about mixing up the looks.”
That pitching mix shut down the Colts, who had enjoyed an offensive season for the record books in their run to the most successful campaign in school history.
Cedar Cliff's Bobby Whalen has accomplished just about everything possible: 100 career hits, 100 career runs, a call from the Phillies, 73 career wins and the team's first ever PIAA semifinal appearance.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Lackey said. “We did all kinds of things this year that had never been done here. We set a school record for wins; we’ve never been in this game before. We set a school record for hits, batting average — not individual stuff, team stuff that has never been done before. ... I’m very proud of the effort and the commitment that they gave this coaching staff.”
The loss closed the scholastic careers of the Colts’ decorated class of 11 seniors, many of whom also contributed Cedar Cliff’s 2017 district championship.
“It’s a great feeling being able to make it that far with such a great group of guys,” Cedar Cliff first baseman Camden New said. “Each senior and each player on this team has a role, and each one of us has filled in that role extremely well.
“We had the capability to go even farther than what we did, we just fell short today.”