STATE COLLEGE - Some day a 2012 Montgomery baseball player might take his child to the high school gym and point upward.
His child will look up at the 2012 Class A Eastern Region championship banner and ask what being a part of that team was like. The father will talk about great players, dedicated coaches, historic wins and unforgettable experiences. He will talk about having a community pushing it to excellence and captivating an entire town with his team's inspired play.
He will talk about being the best ever.
Montgomery players Garrett Shnyder, Kyle Russell, and Alex Worthington?wear their silver medals after Friday’s loss to Bishop?McCort at Penn State.
Bishop McCort scored eight first-inning runs, took advantage of three first-inning errors and downed Montgomery, 14-2, in five innings in Friday's Class A state championship at Penn State University's Medlar Field. The loss stings now but as the years go by, everyone involved with this team will understand how special this season was.
"We had a great season," Montgomery catcher Kyle Russell said. "It's disappointing that we didn't get gold, but this season is something to be proud of."
"It hurts inside to make it this far and not be first, but it's been a heck of an experience and an experience that with my brother (Garrett Shnyder) makes it twice as good," right fielder Corey Kriner said. "People were saying this is going to be a learning year and it's nice to prove them wrong."
Montgomery (21-3) entered the season having to replace five starters from last year's district finalist. It had only three seniors, but it never lowered its expectations and shattered the single-season record for wins. The Red Raiders captured the second District 4 championship in program history and then became trail blazers, winning the program's first three state playoff games.
It blew teams out, it won six games in its final at-bat and it had no shortage of players who delivered clutch performances in huge games. Montgomery became just the second team in the school's history to reach a state championship and it has shown future Raiders that being from a small town does not mean one cannot accomplish big things.
"We're just a bunch of kids having fun and we showed them it can happen in any sport, anywhere, any team," Kriner said. "It hasn't really set in yet, but in the back of my mind I still know we made history at our school and it was great having our community back us up the whole way through the season."
"We set program history with every state postseason game we won," Russell said. "We made it to the state final, we played on an awesome field and finishing second in the state is something special. There's hundreds of other single A teams that wanted to be here today."
Montgomery had won seven straight and outscored its last two state playoff opponents, 15-0. Yesterday, it simply ran into the one team in Pennsylvania that was better. The Crushers (24-2) had eight different players deliver hits, made no errors and received solid pitching from Jesse Cooper who finished 12-1.
McCort featured players who were part of district champions in football and basketball earlier this scholastic year. That experience paid big dividends and after reaching the state semifinals and quarterfinals in the last three seasons, the Crushers experienced their ultimate breakthrough.
McCort outscored its final two opponents, 31-2 in 11 innings, but as good as its offense is, Shnyder had Montgomery in position to enter the bottom of the first scoreless. Three of the first four hitters reached on errors and that opened the floodgates as five hits followed and McCort seized control. Shnyder did not pitch badly and allowed only one earned run in four innings while striking out five. He surrendered one earned run in 24 postseason innings.
"The season was great. I'm just disappointed in that I didn't want it to end this way," Montgomery coach Tom Persing said. "They outhit us and outplayed us and were the better team today, but we'll still work hard through the offseason and hopefully try to get back here next season."
Montgomery immediately answered in the bottom of the first as Alex Worthington and Russell hit back-to-back doubles. Russell (2 for 3) scored Worthington and then courtesy runner Zack Shadle scored on John Goetz's groundout. Kriner and Russell had hits in the third inning, but Cooper stranded two runners with one out and McCort broke it open when it scored five fifth-inning runs.
Kriner continued his torrid postseason and went 2 for 2. The sophomore went 8 for 12 in the postseason and is one of several talented players returning next season. Russell, Shnyder and Goetz played their final games but all made nice contributions in their final starts. They also made contributions that could benefit the program for years to come.
"They're great leaders. They're going to be irreplaceable with the leadership that they have," Persing said. "Hopefully we'll have some younger kids step up and fill those shoes, but it's always hard to replace those guys."
If that trio had to end their scholastic careers with a loss, doing so in the state final at a beautiful professional stadium was not a bad way to do so. As soon as the final out was recorded, they and the entire Montgomery team received a standing ovation from their loyal fans who filled nearly every seat behind its dugout on the first-base side.
It was a heroes' type sendoff and it made perfect sense. One look at Montgomery Little Leaguers writing out "Go Raiders!" behind home plate before their game Thursday night spoke volumes. So did the sign on Route 15 that said "Last one outta' town, turn out the lights," Friday morning. These players and coaches were so much more than just a baseball team to a community that showed why it has one of the state's premier fan bases.
When it comes to the kids who flocked to yesterday's game, these Raiders are larger than life. In those kids' eyes, they are legends. And really, a state title loss can not take away from something that as the years go by will be remembered as a legendary season.
"It's an outstanding accomplishment," Russell said. "Only a few can get to experience something like this.
"It was awesome."