EPHRATA — Quinn Buffington has been in big spots before.
The senior has seen just about everything as the starting quarterback in football the past two years and a multi-year starting pitcher and outfielder in baseball. There was perhaps nobody better suited in the Camp Hill lineup than him for the biggest moment of the season.
With runners on the corners and two outs, the East Tennessee State commit stepped to the plate, hitless in his first three at-bats Monday at Ephrata High School’s War Memorial Field.
He took a ball and swung through strike one. Then he roped a single to the fence in left-center field, driving in Mason Gavlick to beat Schuylkill Haven in walk-off fashion in an 8-7 comeback victory in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals.
“Quinn has been a leader all year,” Lions’ second-year coach Mike Acey said. “His teammates look up to him. He gives it all he’s got and expects the same from them — won’t take anything less. And as you saw, the team expects him to do what he did.”
“This whole year we’ve never counted ourselves out,” Buffington said. “No matter what situation we’ve been in we’ve always given it our all through all seven innings.”
Buffington, who missed a Senior Week trip with friends to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands for this game, was the perfect man for the job. He finished 1-for-4 with a run, walk and the 22nd RBI of his season — the biggest of his career.
“We made it this far, and I didn’t come all the way this far to lose,” he said.
This was unequivocally the most difficult of Camp Hill’s five postseason wins this year. The first three were shutouts, and the state quarterfinal was a 7-2 victory that saw the Lions trail 2-0 early but run away with it by the end.
Camp Hill (17-8) never led the Hurricanes (District 11 champs, 22-5) in this one until the final play. SH scored the game’s first four runs, roughing up Lions’ starter Luke Goodyear, who lasted just 3.2 innings in his worst outing in months.
But the Hurricanes could not put away the District 3 champs. Luke Newman’s single to left brought in Buffington in the bottom of the third, then Goodyear grounded out on a play that scored brother Josh, slicing the 4-0 deficit in half.
SH plated two more the next inning when Brandon Schaeffer lined a single to right off newly inserted Josh Goodyear. But after a couple quick frames, the Lions struck again.
Newman chopped a grounder to shortstop that was misplayed for an error, scoring Josh Goodyear early in the bottom of the fifth. Then Casey Fellinger doubled home Newman, only to score a few pitches later off reliever Mason Ulsh when Jackson Thompson tripled to right. Camp Hill tied it two batters later on Mason Gavlick’s single to right, scoring Thompson.
“We went down 2-0 in the first inning of the last game,” Gavlick said. “It was kinda scary, but we came back just like we did in this game. … Great feeling.”
The Hurricanes went up one last time in the sixth when Austin Clauser sac-flied to right, scoring Albe Evans. Niklaus Yeastedt was thrown out at second after he tagged up on the throw home for a rare double play.
The Lions went down quietly in the home half of the sixth, but the bottom of the lineup came through in the final frame to set up Buffington’s heroics.
Actually, it was that group that deserved perhaps more credit than Mr. Walk-Off. Fellinger and Thompson led off with a single and walk, respectively, with Myers dropping a perfect bunt to move both into scoring position.
Gavlick then came up with a huge single to right to drive home Fellinger and tie the game.
The Lions nearly won it with the No. 9 hitter, Ben Snyder, whose dribbler short of third base nearly scored Thompson. But Damyan Miller made an impressive play, scooping and throwing home to get Thompson for the second out.
The only problem was, Buffington made sure nobody could touch his game-winning gapper.
“Especially with that bunt that Carey Myers had, that really advanced the runners and really helped out,” Gavlick said.
"We were in a good position," 'Canes coach Scott Buffington said. "We just didn’t have enough to hang on. I’ll take that on me."
The Lions got production throughout the lineup. Josh Goodyear finished 3-for-3 with two runs and a walk. He also threw the final 3.1 innings, allowing two hits and one run to get the win. He’s eligible to pitch in Thursday’s championship game at 1 p.m. at Penn State against District 10 champ Rocky Grove, 2-1 winners over Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.
Fellinger (2-for-3) also added two runs and an RBI out of the five hole. He, Thompson, Myers, Gavlick and Snyder combined to go 6-for-16 with four runs and four RBIs, plus both extra-base hits.
“Everyone in our lineup can hit,” Acey said. “They may not have [all] hit today, but every one of them’s capable of hitting the ball and hitting it hard.”
Clauser finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs for SH, while Kobe Brish was 2-for-4 with a run. ‘Canes hitters were all over lefty Luke Goodyear, knocking the usually dominant staff ace for five hits, six runs (five earned) and drawing five walks. He was not sharp all day, but Acey opted to stick with the pitcher who got the team this far for all 100 pitches.
“It was very hard [not to pull him],” Acey said. “But Luke, in the past, has come through. And he’s come back and come through. I wasn’t about to [pull him]. They worked too hard to come here.”
It worked out in the end, with Josh Goodyear shutting things down after the fourth inning and the Camp Hill bats coming alive late. Clauser blew a save opportunity when he entered in the seventh for Ulsh, who had relieved SH’s No. 2 pitcher Dillon Dress after 4.1 innings.
"Give Camp Hill a lot of credit," SH's coach said. "They never quit, kept swinging the bats. They scored one more run."
PIAA win No. 21 sends the Lions to the state championship for the fifth time, and first since the 2009 victory over Serra Catholic, 7-3. The Lions have won three titles, all since 1999, including back-to-back in 2008-09. Rocky Grove is making its championship debut.