UNIVERSITY PARK — Senior center Ty Helsel opened up the fifth inning of the PIAA Class 3A Baseball Championship on Friday by burning a line that ripped the glove of Lancaster Catholic third baseman Dylan Banzhof in half.
That play defined the Scarlet Dragons’ 13-2 five-inning victory over the Crusaders, in which Central finished with 15 hits and hit about twice.
“It’s one of the hardest balls I’ve ever hit,” Helsel said. “It went through his glove. We crushed the ball today. It was awesome.”
Helsel was among six seniors starting Friday’s game who were pushed to win a state championship after losing in the PIAA semifinals last year.
If that wasn’t motivation enough to cap off a 27-0 campaign, the Scarlet Dragons had a message waiting for them when they arrived at Medlar Field in Lubrano Park.
“We were heartbroken last year, and we were going to do whatever we had to do to get back here,” Central coach AJ Hoenstine said. “They came to play today. I felt some nerves coming up here, but when we came in to knock we saw someone write 26-1 on the scoreboard. There’s a saying, “don’t push the bear”, and that got them a little excited.
Central scored in the top of the first inning when Hunter Smith was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, but Lancaster Catholic starting pitcher Noah Zimmerman escaped further trouble with a strikeout and inducing a double play at the floor.
Zimmerman entered the game with 102 strikeouts in 65 innings this season and a 0.96 ERA, but things quickly unraveled for him in the second inning.
Parker Gregg beat a one-out field single, and Dalton Metzger was able to make contact with a pitch outside the strike zone on a hit-and-run moments later. Metzger retired, but Gregg reached second base in what Hoenstine believed was an important play as Central scored six runs in the inning.
“I thought a real key at bat was Dalton Metzger in the second inning when he protected Parker on the steal of second base and surrendered,” Hoenstine said. “It was with our big hitters coming up, and we found ourselves at second base five times in a row. The fact that he surrendered instead of hitting and being a double play was huge. He surrenders, and it turns into a six-seater. Little things like that are what people don’t see, but we’re very proud of them.
Kling came next with Gregg at second, first open base and two outs. Several times this season, the LSU signee has been walked around in that situation, but Zimmerman has chased him. Kling doubled down the line to bring Gregg home and start a big inning.
“I’m glad they started me”, said Kling. “I think he also hit his spot. He was trying to get down and make a change, and I managed to pass the hand and passed the third baseman. It was a good feeling to do this race and to push us forward.
Jeff Hoenstine followed with one of the team’s three hits, Devon Boyles doubled, Smith doubled, Griff Snowberger doubled and Helsel singled before Zimmerman came out of the inning.
The Lancaster Catholic star, who pitched most of a 3-0 shutout against Neumann-Goretti in Monday’s PIAA semifinals, finished the game having allowed 12 earned runs and 13 hits.
“Baseball is a game where sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t” said Lancaster Catholic coach Steve Remley. “It definitely worked their way today. They put the ball in play and knew how to execute. It stings.”
Central added six more runs in the top of the fourth inning with seven singles, including a two-run hit by Metzger.
“It was the dream from the start” said Kling. “We still have three goals in a year. We want to win the Curve Classic, win districts and win the state championship. Luckily we were able to do all three and stay undefeated this year. We all did our job, and it’s a great feeling that we won this.
The Scarlet Dragons were playing in the state championship game for the fifth time and improved to 2-3 with their other championship coming in 2017 when they finished 24-3.
“Being maybe the best team in Central history feels good,” Helsel said. “Having the best record ever and finishing with a state title is awesome. It’s hard to make history at Central. There are a lot of good teams that have come through here.
One out of a state championship, an emotional Boyles struggled to find the strike zone and scored two runs for Lancaster Catholic. Helsel came in relief and forced Levi Hackman to retire and end the match.
“I’ve always been close to these guys,” Boyle said. “Winning this with them means a lot. I am delighted that we have this memory for the rest of our lives.
With the victory, starters Kling, Boyles, Helsel, Jonah Snowberger, Josh Biesinger and Gregg all ended their high school careers as state champions.
“It’s been a phenomenal race since we were little,” Biesinger said. “It’s been great growing up with these guys and being able to play all the sports with them. We all play for each other and support each other at all times.
CENTRAL (13): Kling cf 221, Hoenstine ss 423, Boyles p-1b 202, Fisher cr 020, Smith c 302, Dionis cr 010, G. Snowberger 3b 422, Helsel 1b-p 401, Biesinger rf 000, J. Snowberger dh 411, Gregg lf 422, Metzger 2b 211. Totals—29-13-15.
CATHOLIC LANCASTER (2): N. Wingenroth cf 300, Trott 2b 211, B. Wingenroth ss 200, Danielson 1b 100, Cranford c 201, Hackman 3b-p 301, VanScoten lf 200, Zimmerman p 000, Banzhof dh-3b 200, Pisano rf 010. Totals — 17-2-3.
Central 160 60X X — 13 15 0
Lancaster Catholic 000 02X X — 2 3 1
E–Trott. LOB–Central 7, Lancaster Catholic 7. DP–Lancaster Catholic 1. 2B–Kling, Boyles, G. Snowberger, Cranford. 3B–Trott. HBP–Boyles 2, Smith. SB–Hoenstine, J. Snowberger, Gregg, Metzger, VanScoten, Pisano. RBI–Smith 3, Metzger 2, Boyles 2, Hoenstine 2, Kling, G. Snowberger, Gregg, Danielson, Cranford.
Center: Boyles (W)–4 2/3IP, 3H, 3K, 7BB, 2R, 2ER, 84 slots. Helsel–1/3IP, 0H, 0K, 0BB, 0R, 0ER, 2 slots.
Lancaster Catholic: Zimmerman (L)–3 2/3IP, 13H, 3K, 3BB, 3HBP, 12R, 12ER, 101 slots. Hackman–1 1/3IP, 2H, 0K, 0BB, 1R, 1ER, 19 slots.
Referees: Bryce Brewer (plate); Albert Jones (1B); Charles Carnes (2B); Marc Marinucci (3B).
Records: Central (27-0); Lancaster Catholic (23-3).