Keystone eliminated in state Major Baseball tourney

BRADFORD – An intentional walk in baseball is always a tricky situation to deal with.

It often times results in a play that is either tagged smart or regretful.

In Keystone’s semifinal game of the Pennsylvania State Little League championships, an intentional walk proved to be regretful as Connor Kalten drove a walk-off, two-RBI double down the right-field line. The resulting hit gave Lionville an 8-7 win to advance to the State championship game.

The loss, ends a remarkable postseason run by Keystone, which resulted in a District 12 and Section 3 championship.

Despite the loss, it was one of Keystone’s most exciting games of the postseason. In the end the game featured a combined 20 hits, two lead changes, and a collection of outstanding pitchers.

“I hate to see it end on a hit down the line with two outs,” Keystone coach Jim Corl said. “Swartz made a nice pitch, but that kid just put a good swing on it.”

It was the kind of situation practiced in backyards throughout the country. On the mound, your team up one run, and the ball in your hand.

And Aaron Swartz lived up to the moment, getting the first two outs of the inning with a strikeout and groundout.

“Aaron is such a great kid. He’s such a great pitcher,” Corl said. “He knows what the goal is, and does such a great job.”

Swartz pitched around Richard Rodriguez, putting the tying run on first with a five-pitch walk. After a mound visit, Keystone elected to give Joseph Janick the free pass, which opened the door for Kalten’s game-winning double.

The seesaw action of the game took a dramatic turn in the third when Lionville took a 6-5 lead thanks to a five-run third.

In the fifth, though, Keystone got back on top thanks to Asher Corl and Troy Gardner, who helped restore the team’s swagger with back-to-back singles to open the inning.

Corl eventually scored on an Swartz double. Mahlik Houtz drove Gardner in a batter later when he added his second single of the game.

The clutch hitting gave Keystone a slim 7-6 edge, but three stranded runners in the inning also left a lot of possibility on the field.

“We had some great at-bats, and really battled through it,” Corl said. “We didn’t do a whole lot against that second guy, but we did a good job of pounding their ace.”

The bottom of Keystone’s order struggled, going a combined 1-for-12 with no runs scored or RBIs. Besides the fifth, it seemed to routinely cost Keystone chances to add to its run total.

In the second inning, moments after Smith’s two-run home run gave Keystone its first lead of the game, Rodriguez restored some energy to Lionville by getting the next three batters to end the inning.

The situation mirrored what occurred in the fifth inning when Rodriguez and Joseph Cestare, who entered when Rodriguez crossed the 85-pitch count, combined to get the final three outs.

Smith, who finished with a run and two RBIs, pitched a solid game for Keystone, fanning nine batters, but giving up six of Lionville’s eight runs.

In the third, Smith was challenged when Cestare launched a two-run shot to right field. Justin Best then drew a walk, which Rodriguez followed with his first hit of the game. With two runners on base, Janick gave Lionville its first lead of the game with a three-run home run.

Afterwards, Corl called a timeout to talk to his pitcher.

“I told him to get back to the glove and hit his spots a little better,” Corl said. “He left one over the plate, and you can’t do that to those good hitters.”

Smith rebounded nicely to get the next three batters out by way of strikeout.

At times, Keystone’s offense resembled the team that romped its way through the District 12 and Section 3 tournaments.

Swartz also added a three-run home run and an RBI double and Asher Corl finished with two hits and a equal amount of runs scored.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” a deflated Jim Corl said after the game. “These kids are great kids. They battled hard.”

Keystone023 020 – 7 9 0

Lionville015 002 – 8 11 0

A.J. Smith, Aaron Swartz (5), and Troy Gardner. Richard Rodriguez, Joseph Cestare (5), and Joseph Janick.

WP-Cestare. LP-Swartz.

Top Keystone hitters: Asher Corl 2-4, 2B, runs; Aaron Swartz 2-3, HR, 2B, run, 4 RBI; Mahlik Houtz 2-3, run, RBI; Smith 1-2, HR, run, 2 RBI; Austin Rager 2B. Top Lionville hitters: Cestare HR, run, RBI; Janick 2-3, HR, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Connor Kalten 3-4, 2B, run, 2 RBI.

Records: Keystone 10-2.