Despite loss, Keystone advances to state semis

BRADFORD-An uncharacteristic set of fifth-inning errors, including two at third base, helped give West Point a six-run advantage.

The inning deteriorated into a comedy of errors as Keystone started to resemble some of the teams it beat on its way to the Major Baseball state tournament.

It proved costly as Keystone’s four-run sixth-inning rally fell short, giving West Point a 7-5 win at the Kessel Athletic complex in Bradford on Wednesday.

The challenge now will be overcoming the first lost of the postseason in today’s semifinal against Lion-ville. The game is slated for a 4 p.m. start.

The West Point fifth inning started with a dropped foul ball at third. The error was followed by two consecutive singles by Reed Hipps and Braden Brouse, respectively.

Brouse proved to be quite a thorn in the side of the Keystone. He connected with a first-inning home run for West Point’s first two runs and drove in two more in the fifth with a single.

Immediately after Brouse’s single, Keystone committed two more costly errors to give West Point another run. Connor Mondock then drove in the final run with a double into left field.

“It was that one bad inning,” Keystone coach Jim Corl said. “We dropped that fly ball there at third base, which would have been the second out. We could have got back in possibly without any damage.”

The missed opportunity to get the out might have sparked the four-run rally, but it was a combination of uncharacteristic plays throughout the day that helped West Point.

Asher Corl opened the game with walk and gave Keystone a 1-0 lead after scoring on an RBI groundout. The District 12 champs, though, didn’t score again until the sixth inning.

“They didn’t have their game faces on today,” Corl said. “The karma was off today, there was no doubt. They just weren’t themselves today.”

Tanner Spangler eventually ended the four-inning drought, hitting a single into right field for Keystone’s first hit. Austin Rager then followed with the team’s second hit.

The momentum failed to carry over to any other batters as the inning ended with a groundout to short.

“There were just a lot of out-of-sorts kids in the dugout today,” Corl said. “There were a lot of people hanging their heads, which don’t normally hang their heads. It was just a bad day for Keystone baseball.”

Keystone’s mighty offense looked pedestrian against Tommy Katonka, who kept it at bay with a nasty knuckleball he could throw for strikes.

Surprisingly, it was Katonka’s first appearance for West Point. He mixed his speeds effectively, facing just one batter over the minimum from the second to fifth innings.

Troy Gardner, who started the game for Keystone, eventually got something going with a single to open the final inning. The hardest hit of the game up to that point was followed by Aaron Swartz, who sent a double into the right-field gap. Keystone added its second run during the next at-bat with an RBI sacrifice fly to center field.

“They did battle back. That’s what I told them in our last huddle. I said just go down swinging and make West Point earn the last three outs,” Corl said. “They did a nice job of that.”

As the inning progressed and Keystone’s fans started to come to life, A.J. Smith gave West Point plenty of reasons to be edgy, sending a ball over the fence for a two-run home run.

Much like West Point was able to do in the fifth, Keystone took advantage of two consecutive errors at third to score its next run.

With the loss, Keystone will have to prepare for a must-win game against Lionville, which remained undefeated with a pair of wins on Wednesday.

“We’ll keep the same routine, a lot of the players are going home (after the game),” Corl said of getting his players ready for today’s game. “That Lionville team is going to be tough. We’ll see what happens after that.”

West Point 200 140-7 9 3

Keystone 100 004-5 5 4

Bryce Butler, Tommy Katonka (2), and Reed Hipps. Troy Gardner, Aaron Swartz (3), Tanner Spangler (5), Tanner Lavelle (5), Ross Glossner (6), and Mahlik Houtz, Gardner (3). WP-Butler. LP-Gardner.

Top West Point hitters: Braden Brouse 2-3, HR, 2 runs, 4 RBI; Connor Mondock 2-3, 2B, run, RBI; Bryce Butler 2-3. Top Keystone hitters: Aaron Swartz 2B, run; Mahlik Houtz 2 RBIs; A.J. Smith HR.

Next: Keystone vs. Lionville today at 4 p.m.