It couldn’t have been a more heartbreaking loss for the Seneca Valley High School baseball team, and coach Terry Changuris couldn’t think more highly of his players.
After battling with No. 1 seed North Hagerstown into extra innings, the Screamin’ Eagles lost in the ninth inning, 6-5, on a walk-off walk in the Class 3A West Region championship on Friday in Hagerstown.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of the kids,” Changuris said. “I’m as proud of them as any football championship I’ve ever won. And that’s not just coach speak. They learned how to be champions. Seneca Valley baseball wasn’t on the map and now we are. They deserved to be in the final four, but I can live with it.”
After allowing four runs in the second inning, starting pitcher Calvin Reighard and Changuris had a talk. Changuris said he told his senior pitcher what Hall of Famer Whitey Ford would do in this situation — throw softer — and he’d probably have success.
Reighard didn’t allow another run while pitching 5 1/3 innings, allowing Seneca Valley to tie the game up.
North Hagerstown (19-3) took a 5-4 lead in the sixth inning, but Nick Fahs hit a game-tying single in the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
In the ninth inning, Fahs, who pitched the seventh and eighth innings, walked the leadoff hitter.
Chris Heckhaus came in to relieve Fahs. Heckhaus hit the next batter, putting runners on first and second. The next batter tried to bunt but catcher Sean Bacchus made the catch. Runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch during the next at bat. The second out was earned on a squeeze attempt, with the batter running into the ball, which was placed down the first-base line.
Heckhaus worked the next batter to a 2-2 count, but threw two balls to walk in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
Changuris said nearly 100 fans stayed afterwards while the Eagles (16-5) let out their emotions in the dugout and gave each player a standing ovation when they left.
“I’ve been trying to get them, all year long, to battle and overcome adversity and not cave in when things go bad. They accomplished everything I wanted them to do,” Changuris said. “Not only did they learn to fight and overcome adversity, but they learned how to be champions. ... We’re every bit as good and deserving as North Hagerstown.”