DILLSBURG - Walking to the plate with one on and no outs in the top of the fifth inning yesterday afternoon at Northern York High, Matt Moloney knew more was at stake than just a PIAA Class AA quarterfinal matchup.
The Kennedy-Kenrick senior third baseman was determined to make sure the final game of his high school career would not come at the expense of a pitching milestone.
More importantly, he did not want the final chapter of Wolverine baseball history to include a no-hit, shutout loss.
So when Moloney lofted a 1-2 breaking ball into the gap in right-center for K-K's first hit, the Wolverine bench and fans exploded with cheers.
And when Rob Barth drove in Anthony Carr five pitches later, the cheers grew louder.
Sure, K-K still trailed Loyalsock Township, from Williamsport, by seven runs en route to a 9-1 loss, but the Wolverines could rest assured knowing they had upheld the proud tradition of K-K baseball to the very last out.
"Your mind-set when you go up to the plate, you always want to get a hit," Moloney said. "But when the kid has a no-hitter going you want to get a hit that much more just to break up his no-hitter.
"I wish we would've been able to put out a better showing for the last game at Kenrick, but it wasn't bad. We put the ball in play and they made all the plays and they just hit the ball well. There was nothing we could do about it."
All game long, the Lancers managed to find holes in K-K's outfield, while the Wolverines (14-11) hit into an out to every Loyalsock defensive player.
Featuring five players from their 2008 state championship team, the Lancers used their aggressive bats to jump on K-K starter Jimmy Volpe. Eight of Loyalsock's 12 hits came on first pitches as the Lancers tagged Volpe for a pair of runs in the first and third innings, while adding four more in the fourth.
And with the aptly named Stephen Stopper, a Rider University commit, keeping the Wolverines off balance at the plate, Loyalsock (21-5) cruised to its third consecutive PIAA semifinal appearance. The Lancers will face Bermudian Springs on Monday.
Stopper faced the minimum through the first four innings before giving up his lone earned run in the fifth.
And not content to go down without a fight, the Wolverines managed to raise Stoppers' heart rate a bit in the seventh.
Behind a pair of singles from Carr and Greg Guidone, the last hit in program history, and Michael Gratzinger reaching on an error, K-K loaded the bases, before Stopper retired the final two batters to bring the era of Wolverine baseball to a close.
While admitting the final result was somewhat frustrating, K-K coach Tom Sergio had nothing but praise for the way his group of 10 seniors and eight juniors closed out the school.
"That's baseball," he said. "You come out and play as hard as you can and sometimes the hits fall in and sometimes they don't. My guys came to play and we ended up losing 9-1. They have nothing to hang their heads about. The last game in Kennedy-Kenrick history, I think they can go home with their heads up."
When those eight underclassmen take the field next year, they'll be wearing the jerseys of the new Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford, a merger of K-K and St. Pius X.
And while Sergio, who has applied for the coaching position at the new school, is not sure whether he will be on the bench for Pope John Paul II's program opener, he does know yesterday afternoon marked the end of an era.
After a tradition-filled run of Catholic League championships, college players and major league draft picks, the doors along Johnson Highway in Norristown will close for good, which, according to Sergio, a Bishop Kenrick graduate, is a harsh reality for every member of the K-K community.
"It's sad for everybody," Sergio said. "And that's not just me and other grads, it's the entire communities of Norristown, Roxborough and all the schools that feed Kennedy-Kenrick. It's a sad ending to a long school history.