SV’s Cinderella run ends
Conestoga stops Raiders 1 game short of state baseball title
Butler Eagle
Written by:
June 11, 2014

SCOTLAND — The effort was there, but for the first time this postseason, the desired result eluded the Seneca Valley baseball team.

Seven stranded baserunners, including four in scoring position, cost the Raiders dearly in a 3-2 loss to Conestoga in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals Monday at Greene Township Park.

“Today, we just didn’t get the big hit with guys in scoring position,” said Raiders’ coach Eric Semega.

Seneca’s last chance to do so came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Trailing by the one run, Alex Hajduk walked on four pitches to begin the frame and was replaced by courtesy runner Dan Barna.

Conestoga pitcher Jake Bufo then battled back from a 3-0 count to John Harper and induced the outfielder to fly out. Johnny Brittner put down a sacrifice bunt, moving Barna to second base.

Matt Rafferty then grounded out to end the game.

“Any time you put a runner in scoring position, it puts pressure on the other team,” said Semega. “At that point, we were looking for a base hit to tie the game. It just didn’t work out for us.”

Bufo, a senior left-hander, struggled at times, striking out one and walking four. He entered the game with a perfect record of 6-0 and an ERA under one.

“He showed the character he’s had all year,” said Pioneers’ coach John Vogan. “I’ve said it before, he’s a pitcher, not a thrower. You can’t measure his heart.”

The Raiders (12-12) came very close to scoring a game-tying run in the bottom of the fifth inning.

With Brittner at third base and two outs, Bufo threw a wild pitch that hit the ground and ricocheted off catcher Andrew Turner. The ball skipped 20 feet to his right, but Turner got to it quickly, turned and fired a strike to Bufo, who was covering home plate. He made the tag on a sliding Brittner and held onto the ball for the third out of the inning.

“That play was the difference in the game,” said Vogan. “It shows that hard work in practice does pay off. Andrew did a spectacular job behind the plate.”

“We tell our players (to break for the plate) if the ball kicks far enough away,” said Semega, “but every guy is different. He (Brittner) made his decision and it was a bang-bang play.”

Conestoga (22-7) broke the ice in the top of the first on Andrew Born’s two-run single off of Hajduk.

After retiring the first seven batters he faced, Bufo hit a tough stretch in the bottom of the third. John Davis singled with one out. Barna came on to run the bases and moved to second on Hajduk’s groundout and scored on Harper’s base hit.

Brittner’s single advanced Harper to third and the latter scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

Rafferty followed with a walk and Vince Augustine reached on a fielder’s choice that resulted in no out recorded and the bases were loaded. Connor Coward then blistered Bufo’s pitch right back at the hurler, who was able to get a glove on it. He rushed off the right side of the mound, picked the ball up and fired to first to squeeze out of the jam.

“The play their pitcher made on Connor’s line drive was a huge momentum-changer,” said Semega.

The Pioneers would score the deciding run in their next at-bat. Steve Born led off with a double and came home on Turner’s single.

Seneca would threaten in the bottom of the fourth as Davis and Hajduk both managed two-out base hits, but Bufo got Harper to fly out, preserving Conestoga’s 3-2 edge.

Hajduk was tagged with the loss after surrendering three runs on five hits while striking out two and walking two in six innings. Coward worked a scoreless top of the seventh.

Vogan is happy just to have survived his team’s encounter with the Raiders.

“Seneca Valley plays good defense and they can hit the ball,” he said. “I think his (Hajduk’s) fastball is a lot better than people think. That’s one heck of a team.”

The Raiders tallied as many wins in the playoffs (6) as they had the entire regular season. Included was the program’s fourth WPIAL title.

“Right now it hurts because we were so close,” said Semega, “but when our guys think about what they did and how they did it, there’s a lot to be proud of.”

Conestoga 200 100 0 — 3 6 0

Seneca Valley 002 000 0 — 2 5 0

W: Jake Bufo 7IP (1K, 4BB). L: Alex Hajduk 6IP (2K, 2BB).

Conestoga (22-7): Austin Shirley 1B R, Ryne Ogren R, Andrew Born 1B 2RBI, Steve Born 2B R, Andrew Turner 2-1B RBI, Alex Gagne 1B

Seneca Valley (12-12): John Harper 1B R RBI, Johnny Brittner 1B, John Davis 2-1B, Alex Hajduk 1B, Dan Barna R