STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Bensalem made history this season by winning its first PIAA District 1 baseball title and making its inaugural appearance in the state tournament.
But the surprising Owls fell one victory short of earning statewide glory, bowing to District 7’s Canon-McMillian, 10-3, in Friday afternoon’s Class 6A final at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The Big Macs used a strong effort from senior righthander Zach Rohaley and a seven-run outburst in the fifth inning to capture their first state crown since 2008.
“It wasn’t what we were expecting,” Bensalem senior Dom Grady said. “We were supposed to come out and win. But we’re happy about getting here and all that we accomplished this year.”
The Owls suffered an early blow when starting pitcher Nick Dean had to be lifted after just one inning.
“I just had a small tweak in my back,” the junior righthander and Maryland recruit said. “I couldn’t get the right spin on the ball and had to come out.”
Canon-McMillan opened against Dean, who threw 22 pitches, with two singles and a walk. A pair of RBI sacrifice fly balls put the Suburban One League National Conference champs in a 2-0 hole.
“He’s been tight a few times this year,” Bensalem coach Harry Daut said. “He gave us a lot during this run, but I decided to go another route.”
Grady took over for Dean and held the Big Macs to one run and struck out four in the next three innings. Brandon Kline’s one-out single to left field in the home second made it 3-0.
As it did in Tuesday’s semifinal against La Salle, when it rallied from a 4-1 deficit and advanced with an eight-inning triumph, Bensalem (23-4) fought back. The Owls evened things with a three-run fourth.
Dean, who played second and first base after leaving the mound, and Stephen Aldrich opened the frame with back-to-back singles. Dean scored on a wild pitch. Damon Lavender’s double to right-center field plated Aldrich, and pinch-runner Nickolas Kiesling came home on an error.
Canon-McMillan (21-5) sent 12 batters to the plate and registered five hits in the decisive fifth. Cam Walker’s bases-clearing double to left-center highlighted the explosion.
Grady struck out seven before he began experiencing trouble in the fifth and was replaced by southpaw Nick Fossile.
“Dom did a great job for us, mixing up pitches and battling,” Dean said.
Rohaley, who is bound for Wheeling Jesuit, yielded six hits and fanned six over the same number of innings. He threw 97 pitches, with 63 for strikes.
“He’s determined. He’s tough, and he throws four pitches for strikes,” Big Macs coach Tim Bruzdewicz said. “Any time he’s out there, we feel like we’re the best team.”
Canon-McMillan, which is located about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, snapped Bensalem’s 10-game winning streak.
“We went through some really good teams to get here,” Daut said. “We peaked at the right time. I’m extremely proud of these guys.”
Bensalem 000 300 0 – 3 6 0
Canon-McMillan 210 070 x – 10 10 3
WP: Zach Rohaley. LP: Dom Grady. 2B: B-Damon Lavender; CM-Cam Walker.