Keystone is eliminated at regional tournament

MIKE ORAZZI/Special to the Sun-Gazette Keystone catcher Gardner Fravel receives the throw as Maryland’s Kannon Cropper scores at Breen Field in Bristol during Thursday’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn.

BRISTOL, Conn. — Keystone’s magical run may have ended, but the memories will last a life time.

“Obviously the season is an A-plus,” Keystone manager Pat Johnson said. “Winning Pennsylvania is very difficult. So I told them they’re champions no matter what and that I love them no matter what.”

Keystone was eliminated from the Mid-Atlantic Regional following a 6-0 loss to Maryland. They ended the summer with a 13-2 record and captured a district, sectional and state championship.

Maryland pitcher Kannon Cropper was brilliant on the mound. He threw seven strikeouts in six scoreless innings.

“He pitched his tail off,” Johnson said of Cropper. “He pitched a great game and we just didn’t hit.”

Cropper limited Keystone’s offense to one hit, a second-inning single from Connor Foltz.

“You have to hit, and that’s unfortunately the way it goes in this game,” Johnson said of the loss. “You have to hit the baseball to be able to win.”

Keystone’s Gabe Johnson threw a team-high three strikeouts. Keystone rotated between four pitchers, who combined for seven strikeouts. Keystone pitchers issued five-free passes following a zero-walk performance against Delaware on Tuesday.

Maryland’s Alex Navarro crushed a deep RBI double to right field to put Maryland up, 1-0, in the first. Maryland connected for nine hits, a tournament-high allowed by Keystone pitchers.

“I thought the pitching was decent, but they just had some timely hitting,” Johnson said. “We just gave up some base runners and they capitalized on some hits.”

Keystone’s defense had a few terrific opening innings. Braylen Corter undid an uncharacteristic fielding error in the second when he turned a double play, then fielded a grounder and threw out Stephen Wade at first base.

Maryland’s Foster Smith responded with a RBI single to extend Maryland’s lead to 2-0 in the fourth. Maryland extended its lead in the fifth, 3-0, after Alex Navarro ripped an RBI single to center field.

Keystone’s pitching started to unwind in the sixth. Maryland recorded two hits and added three insurance runs to extend its lead, 6-0

Maryland’s defense turned a sixth-inning double play before securing the victory.

Maryland manager Cameron McDonough spoke highly of Keystone after his team’s win.

“They were a really good group,” McDonough said. “We tested them in every way possible and they responded very, very well the whole time.

“We knew we were going to be in a battle tonight. We watched those guys and saw the way they practiced. Their coaching staff is excellent, they are really nice guys too and we’ve had a lot of conversations and fun tonight, even before our game together. We enjoyed each other’s company.”

Maryland will play New Jersey tonight in the losers’ bracket final.

After the game Keystone fans greeted the team outside the dugout. Johnson celebrated the fans’ commitment to Clinton County baseball.

“They were fantastic like they always are,” Johnson said. “This is always a fun time of the year for our community. I want to thank the community for all the support. I hope that we made them proud.”

Maryland 100 113–6 9 0

Keystone 000 000–0 1 3

W–Kannon Cropper. L–Gabe Johnson

Top Keystone hitters: Connor Foltz 1-2. Top Maryland hitters: Alex Navarro 2-3, 2 RBIs; Adam Gardner 2-2.