BETHLEHEM—The Keystone 9-11 team battled to the very end but could not quite come up with the key hit down the stretch and fell by a 6-3 score to Back Mountain National in a Sunday state tournament lower bracket semifinal.
The loss ended a great Keystone season, one which saw coach Scott Fravel’s team win district and sectional crowns and a top-six finish in the state of Pennsylvania.
The loss was a difficult one as Keystone had built a 3-1 lead midway through the six inning contest but saw Back Mountain plate a total of five runs through innings four and five, doing so on but three hits but taking advantage of several rare Keystone misplays.
Back Mountain scored first in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead. The game stayed that way until Keystone pushed across its three runs in the top of the third. Nate Wian opened with a single and Connor Foltz reached base on an error (one of six committed by Back Mountain). After Elek Fravel lined out, Gavin Burnell stepped up and drilled a two-run triple to right and came around to score when Back Mountain mishandled the relay, the score 3-1 Keystone at that point.
Keystone thought they had a fourth run in the top of the fourth when Gavin Kerstetter led off the inning, reaching base on an infield error. Brady Myers pinch-ran for Kerstetter and worked his way to third. Cayden Culvey lined out to the first baseman for the first out of the inning. Pinch-hitter Seth Fronk struck out for the second out but the home plate umpire reportedly yelled out it was the third out of the inning so the Back Mountain catcher rolled the ball back towards the mound. On third base, Myers saw the ball rolled back to the pitching mound and raced home for what Keystone thought was its fourth run. A 15-minute discussion ensued and tourney officials called a Little League rules interpreter in Bristol, CT for a ruling. It was decided to send Myers back to third and the inning continued. Dominic Slota then pinch-hit and a pitch got by the catcher and Myers attempted to score from third; unfortunately for Keystone, the ball bounced off the backstop and right back to the Back Mountain catcher who applied the tag to Myers to end the bizarre top of the fourth, still 3-1 Keystone.
Back Mountain plated two in the bottom of the inning to knot the score at 3-3, using a triple, a single and a Keystone error for two runs. The Wilkes-Barre area team broke the tie with three in the bottom of the fifth, using a walk, two Keystone errors and a single to score three unearned runs for a 6-3 lead.
Keystone was able to load the bases in the bottom of the sixth but could not score. The team also had three singles in the fifth but had a runner thrown out on the bases and did not score. In all Keystone had three runers thrown out on the bases and left eight runners on base. Brady Myers, the third of three Keystone pitchers, was the hard-luck loser.
Keystone finished with eight hits, led by Burnell’s triple and single and Nate Wian’s two singles. Other hits came from Slota, Foltz, Wyatt Kramer and Kevin Grenninger.
As in all the Keystone games at the state tourney, the contest was marked by great sportsmanship from all involved, coaches, parents and fans. Keystone finished with a 1-2 mark in Bethlehem.
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