Despite failing to advance past the best-of-three Landmark Conference semifinals, the baseball team remains positive.
The team came into the playoffs seeded first (16-5 in conference) and faced fourth-seeded Catholic University (12-9 in conference) at Connell Park in Scranton.
Scranton dropped the first game 7-1, won the second game 13-11 in walkoff fashion in 10 innings and dropped the decisive game three 7-5.
Head Coach Mike Bartoletti said the team has nothing to be ashamed of because they gave their best effort.
“To go from being predicted sixth to being first, and we won clearly by three games – that’s a heck of a turnaround and a heck of an accomplishment,” Bartoletti said.
Bartoletti and players said the second game of the series was one of the most exciting games this season.
Bartoletti said the game was one of the most emotionally taxing games he has ever been a part of, and gave Catholic credit for its play in the series.
“It was a little too exciting for me. It was a very good weekend of college baseball,” Bartoletti said. “We were on the wrong end of it, but I always tell the kids, ‘I want you to enjoy the experience.’”
The one game Scranton won, the second of the series, was remarkable.
Scranton took a 9-5 lead into the top of the ninth inning, but Catholic battled back to take an 11-9 lead.
Scranton answered in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, force extra innings and keep its season alive.
The Scranton defense held strong in the top of the 10th and the game was tied 11-11 when sophomore catcher Dan Hansen stepped up to bat with a runner on second in the bottom of the 10th.
Hansen then came through with a walk-off home run to right field to win it for the Royals. He described what happened on that final play.
“He threw me two changeups and I got up 2-0 so I knew a fastball was coming, and I just tried to hit it and I got a little lucky. Especially me, because I don’t have a track record of power so I think everyone was surprised at that, especially me,” Hansen said.
“When I was running around I had no idea what was going on, it was all a blur. It was something else.”
Hansen said selflessness and team cohesion were major factors that propelled Scranton forward this season.
“I know last year I never played at all, and there were guys this year that went through that same thing, but it didn’t matter because you’re playing with your friends,” Hansen said.
“At the end of the day a win’s a win, and we happened to do that a lot this year. It was a great year. It was a very memorable one.”
In the third game, the teams were tied 5-5 heading into the top of the ninth inning, and Catholic scored two runs. Scranton was unable to answer in the bottom of the ninth.
Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year, outfielder Tommy Trotter, said everyone on the team had a leadership role, and he is optimistic about next season.
“I’m just going to miss all those senior guys,” Trotter said. “They were big role models to me and I really appreciated that.”
Senior pitcher Dillon Chorba, who pitched in the final game, said his time on the baseball team has influenced his personal development more than anything else at Scranton.
“Being on the team meant more to me than anything. I met my best friends, they’re going to be my best friends for life, from this team,” Chorba said.
“I’ve learned more things about myself and about life than I ever could have imagined and that’s what made playing baseball here so really special to me. I’m going to miss it, I’m really going to miss it.”
Despite the season’s end, it is clear that the players gained life lessons and lasting friendships.
After naming many former players and where they are working now, Bartoletti said graduates of Scranton’s baseball team rival those of any college in the country.
“They’re all going to be successful going forward in life, I mean this is as good a life lesson as you can have.
When you believe in something and work hard at it, there’s a result there that you get up until Sunday,” Bartoletti said. “They need to be really commended for it. I can’t say enough about them all year.”