The Council Rock South players were, understandably, inconsolable as they left Neumann University. A heartfelt round of applause from a pack of supporters offered little to ease the pain.
Spring-Ford, meanwhile, was considering itself very fortunate. Overcoming a ghastly six errors, the Rams scratched out three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to nip the Golden Hawks, 6-5, Thursday in a PIAA Class AAAA state baseball quarterfinal.
"Yeah, it was pretty crazy," Spring-Ford coach Bruce Brobst said. "To overcome that many errors in a state-tournament game . . . that doesn't happen very often."
The Pioneer Athletic Conference champions are a win away from making it to State College. Monday, at a site and time to be determined, they will face District 3 runner-up Manheim Township.
In the seventh, Josh Cratsenberg drove in the deciding run with a one-out sacrifice fly to right field. Mike Oczypok, who earned the win in relief of starter Sean Larkin, easily beat the throw home.
Down by 5-3 entering their last at-bat, the Rams (24-4) capitalized on a tide-turning defensive miscue. Billy Fleming neatly handled leadoff man Ricky Gorrell's grounder to shortstop, but misfired on his throw across the diamond.
Afterward, C.R. South coach Greg Young did his best to comfort the West Virginia-bound standout in an emotional one-on-one chat in the infield.
"He is the best player I've ever coached," Young said. "It's a 21-out game. We're not going to hang this loss on one play."
James Hoff moved Gorrell to second on a single up the middle. With a perfectly placed bunt toward third base - pitcher Brian Donnelly fielded the ball, but had no play - Oczypok loaded the bases.
Cody Clarke drew a walk to make it 5-4. Ryan Conway, who had homered to left field in the fourth, evened things with a sacrifice fly to right.
The Golden Hawks, aided by three Spring-Ford errors, had managed two runs in the top of the seventh. Donnelly (single) scored on an error, and Fleming (single) came home on Justin Thomas' single.
C.R. South (17-6) had reached the state quarterfinals for the first time. "We have a scrappy, hard-nosed bunch of kids," Young said. "It's tough to lose this. I'm heartbroken for them."
Council Rock South 0200012 - 5102
Spring-Ford 0001203 - 666
WP: Mike Oczypok. LP: Brian Donnelly. 3B: SF-Oczypok. HR: SF-Ryan Conway