Despite valiant effort, Raiders fall to Riverside

BROCKWAY- The defending State Champion Riverside Panthers (18-6) proved to be too much for the Brookville Raiders (15-5) to handle during the opening round of the PIAA Class AA State Playoffs, as the Panthers earned a 6-3 victory Monday in Brockway.

"None of us wanted the season to end today, but I told the kids to keep their heads up; we had a good year," said Raiders Head Coach Kenny Lindermuth.

After a traffic-related delay to the game, both teams came out hot offensively.

Riverside was first to bat. Brookville's Nathan St. Laurent opened the game by striking out Riverside's Devin Kelosky.

Next to bat was Dylan Jones, who belted a shot to deep right to get on first. Tyler Falk then flew out to center field for the second out.

Just when it looked as if St. Laurent was about to close out the inning for Brookville, Riverside pitcher Rob Hardy blasted a home run over the left field wall, giving them a 2-0 lead. Ian Sutherland then popped out to second baseman Cole McDonough to close out the inning.

Hardy went 1-for-3 with a home run, two RBIs and a walk. He also impressed from the mound with six strike-outs, allowing only three walks, three runs, six hits and one home run.

"It's the first kid (Hardy) we've seen all year that the curveball was his main pitch," said Lindermuth. "We probably didn't see that many curveballs in a week, let alone in one game," he said.

The Raiders were not intimidated by Riverside's 2-0 lead, as they came out swinging in the first inning.

After a quick two outs from Seth Connor and St. Laurent, Brookville came alive.

Nathan Bonfardine was the first to reach base with a single to left. Zane Hackett nearly homered in his first at-bat with a shot that was just barely called foul.

He recovered and drilled a single to center field. Tyler Dombrowski was next to bat. On a wild pitch, Bonfardine and Hackett both moved up a bag. Dombrowski then smacked a shot to shallow center field and brought in Bonfardine and Hackett, tying the game 2-2. Brock Bietz batted next and was tagged out to end the inning.

Riverside came out strong again in the second inning. Blaise McCarty opened the inning with a single to right field, then a followed with a stolen base.

After Whitlatch was thrown out at first, Corey Belonzi followed with a single and a steal of his own. Anthony Meneice then whacked a single to center field to bring McCarty home. Brookville's defense then clamped down, closing out the inning without allowing any more runs and with the game still in reach at 3-2.

The Raiders struggled over the next three innings, having two hits in the second and none in both the third and fourth.

Riverside went three and out during the third inning thanks to two nice grabs from the Brookville infield; the first from shortstop Seth Connor and the second from first baseman Zane Hackett, which closed out the inning.

The Panthers scored their fourth run in the fourth inning on a double from Tyler Whitlatch that brought McCarty home. Starting the fifth inning, Hackett replaced St. Laurent as pitcher.

Hackett struggled out the gate, allowing two hits, three walks and two runs in the fifth inning. The Raiders closed out the inning with a double play, with the score 6-2 Riverside.

Things were beginning to look bleak for the Raiders when they stepped up to the plate in the fifth inning, with Seth Connor being the first to bat. He rose to the occasion and crushed the ball over the right field fence to provide Brookville with one last glimmer of sunshine on the cloudy day.

"(Connor)'s been the spark plug for us all year," said Lindermuth. "When he hit that one in the fifth inning, it was like OK, here we go, this is going to be our big inning; you know, it just never materialized," he said.

That ray of sunshine did not last long. After the homer, only two Raiders reached base during the next two innings.

The Raiders closed out well defensively though, with two three and out scenarios in the final two innings.

They had once last shot at victory in the seventh inning, trailing 6-3. However, the Riverside defense continued to be too stifling, as the Raiders went down on a three-and-out to end the game.

Lindermuth was displeased with yesterday's loss but was impressed by how well his team performed overall this season. He touched on how the team went beyond expectations and how important the seniors were to the squad.

"It's been a great group of seniors," said Lindermuth. "Great attitudes, great desire, they're going to succeed in whatever they do in life, all got a good work ethic, just a fun group of kids to be around, it's going to be hard to see them go," he said.