Burrell left to wonder what could have been against top-seeded Quaker Valley
Just moments removed from the end of his team's season, Burrell baseball coach Mark Spohn could only shrug, force a chuckle and go philosophical.
The Bucs won six of their final seven games during the regular season to slip into the WPIAL Class AA playoffs as the lowest seed — barely extending their streak of consecutive seasons qualifying to 16.
Yet there Burrell was, highly competitive and merely a clutch hit or a nifty defensive play away from upsetting an undefeated No. 1 seed in the first round.
In losing, 6-3, to Quaker Valley on Monday at Hampton High School, the Bucs showed what could have been.
“They made every play they should have,” Spohn said, “and we had a couple we should have had that we didn't. That's the difference between winning and losing.”
Nelson Westwood had two hits, three RBI and a run for the Quakers (19-0), who advanced to play Freeport in the quarterfinals. Quaker Valley's Tyler Garbee allowed one run on six hits over six innings, and Jake Pilewicz retired Burrell in order in the seventh.
The Bucs (8-9) finished with fewer than 10 wins and with a losing record for the first time since the turn of the century.
“There's a fine line between them and us; that's what I told the kids,” Spohn said. “They don't see it from their perspective.
“The difference between good teams and average teams is just what we saw today. Some teams just have the ability to make the play when the play's there, and other teams don't.”
The Quakers walked only one batter and were more crisp in the field and on the basepaths. Spohn noted the substantial talent level of his players, but he also pointed to the unshakable nature of Quaker Valley.
“We haven't talked about a perfect record all year long,” Quakers coach Todd Goble said. “We talk about the next day and how we have to improve every game.”
The Bucs took an early lead when Austin Devore's two-out popup fell into shallow left to drive in Zac Abel in the top of the first.
But that lead lasted just a half inning. After the first two Quaker Valley hitters of the game reached base, Westwood tripled deep to left to drive in two and give the Quakers a lead they would never relinquish. Westwood scored two batters later on a groundout, and Garbee added an RBI single to make it 4-1.
After allowing four hits in the first inning, Burrell starter Ben Pish permitted five over the final five innings.
An RBI groundout by Corey Arabia in the fourth pulled the Bucs within two runs, but Quaker Valley got that run back in the bottom of the inning.
The Bucs pulled within 5-3 in the sixth. But not only did they leave three men on base when Shane Cornuet struck out to end the inning, but earlier in the sixth Burrell had baserunner thrown out.
“It was a closer game than the score seems,” Spohn said. “But they're (19-0) for a reason. We'll come back; we lose a few seniors, so we'll try to come back next year and see if we can't do any better.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.