Trojans march into PIAA semis - baseball

June 11, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

HERSHEY, Pa. - The longtime dream of graduating high school with a state title quickly vanished for the seniors on the Chambersburg baseball team Thursday night.

But don't feel too badly for the Trojans. They still can win states; they'll just already have their diplomas with them.

Just hours before the majority of the Chambersburg team had to put on caps and gowns, the Trojans knocked off Whitehall 8-3 in the PIAA Class AAA state quarterfinals Thursday afternoon.


Andrew Burke pitched a complete-game four-hitter with eight strikeouts and designated hitter Irv Sleighter drove in four runs to lead Chambersburg, which made it clear that baseball still is a top priority.

"When they told us we were going to play on graduation day, I thought, 'I'll miss my graduation,'" said Trojans senior shortstop Cody Stinger. "'They can just mail me my diploma.'"

Instead, the game started at 1 p.m., creating quite the unique doubleheader celebration.

"Most of these guys didn't care if they went to graduation or not," Chambersburg coach Bob Thomas said, laughing. "I'm sure they want to graduate, but they might not want to sit there for three hours."

The Trojans (23-4) will face either Hempfield or Shikellamy in the semifinals Monday at a site and time to be announced.

To get through the quarterfinals, they had to catch up to Whitehall's hard-throwing Andy Kulhamer. Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth, they finally did.

Stinger, whose error in the top of the fourth led to Whitehall's go-ahead run, led off the inning by immediately getting it back, smashing a solo shot to left to tie it.

"He threw first-pitch fastball the whole time," Stinger said. "He grooved one up at the letters and that's my favorite pitch.

"If we make a mistake in the field, we know it's usually not going to hurt us because, one through nine, we have the best hitting team in the state."

Kulhamer retired the next two batters before giving up back-to-back walks to Josh Frey and Andy Carter. After Jared Olson chased him with an RBI single, Sleighter greeted reliever Mike Costello with a two-run double to left to make it 6-3.

Chambersburg added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth on consecutive doubles by Burke and Frey and a sacrifice fly from Sleighter.

Meanwhile, Burke (8-2) seized ownership of Whitehall's offense, retiring the last 10 batters he faced in order.

"I knew once we got a couple runs they were counting on me to shut them down," Burke said.

Chambersburg went up 1-0 in the first on Drew McGwin's RBI triple. Whitehall (18-8) got the run back in the second on Jim Luchansky's RBI single. After Sleighter's sacrifice fly gave the Trojans a 2-1 lead in the third, Whitehall answered with two in the fourth for their only lead. Josh Miller's solo shot to left was the big blow - and Whitehall's final hit.

"After I gave up that home-run ball, I just bore down and started going after them," Burke said. "I said, 'No more.' ... This team has a lot of desire. We want to win really bad and we'll do it at all costs."

That's what the graduating Trojans have learned.

"It's what school's all about," Sleighter said, "just representing your school as best you can."

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