EPHRATA, Pa. — Archbishop Carroll’s stellar baseball season was halted by a rail-thin righthander with a strong command of the strike zone.
Lower Dauphin’s Carson Kulina held the Patriots to five hits in 5 2/3 innings, and the Falcons triumphed, 3-2, in Monday night’s PIAA Class 5A semifinal at Ephrata High’s War Memorial Field.
“He was getting the ball over the plate, we weren’t jumping on his first-pitch fastballs, and we took too many bad swings,” Carroll senior Jake Kelchner said.
After finishing as runner-up to La Salle in the Catholic League, the Patriots (20-6) won the District 12 title and two state playoff contests before falling to District 3’s third-place qualifier.
“We ran into a very good, well-coached team,” Carroll coach Mike Costanzo said. “You have to tip your cap to them.”
Lower Dauphin (23-2) will face either District 1’s Marple Newtown (23-2) or District 7’s West Allegheny (17-2) for top honors at 6 p.m. Thursday at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
After their Monday afternoon semifinal was postponed because of poor field conditions caused by the previous night’s heavy rain, Marple Newtown and West Allegheny will square off at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Greene Township Park in Scotland, Pa.
Kulina, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior and the son of Falcons coach Kenneth Kulina, struck out seven before giving way to Will Manley in the sixth.
The Patriots took a 1-0 lead in the home fourth on Sean Lawley’s two-out double to left-center field on a 3-2 pitch.
The Falcons went in front, 2-1, in the fifth. Conner Buggy opened the frame against Kelchner with a triple to right-center and Nick Bennett followed with a bloop single to short right.
Buggy scored the equalizer on a throwing error, and Bennett came home on Clay Spencer’s RBI sacrifice liner.
After Lower Dauphin’s Tommy Bramley started the sixth with a single inside the first-base line, Costanzo lifted the Alabama-bound Kelchner for fellow southpaw Tyler “Bugs” Kehoe. Kelchner gave up five hits and two unearned runs.
“Jake is a competitor,” Costanzo said matter-of-factly. “He gave 100 percent. He wanted to kill me when I took him out.”
After Kehoe notched the first of his six strikeouts, Jarek Bacon gave the Falcons a 3-1 advantage with a double to right-center.
Kelchner drew a leadoff walk and scored on a throwing error to make it 3-2 in the bottom half of the sixth. Manley escaped further damage with a strikeout and tossed a 1-2-3 seventh.
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WP: Carson Kulina. LP: Jake Kelchner. 2B: LD-Jarek Bacon, Clay Spencer; AC-Sean Lawley. 3B: LD-Conner Buggy.