THURMONT – Almost a year later, the post-match scene was radically different.
Last June, the Catoctin baseball team basked in the glow of their second state championship.
The players who had played together since their Little League days and knew each other before that in many cases embraced and celebrated a moment and an accomplishment they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Tuesday night was more of a dark silence after the Cougars were knocked out of the Class 1A West Region II Championship Game playoff with a 13-5 loss to Clear Spring.
Players sat in shallow left field, some stoically and others fighting back tears, as coaches gushed about their talent as baseball players, their team camaraderie and preached about the value of maintaining relationships in the future.
Then the last team chat of a 14-4 season ended, and players and coaches shared final hugs. The fabric of the team remained strong in victory and defeat.
“Our chemistry from day one has been incredible,” said longtime Catoctin trainer Mike Franklin. “We are a very close-knit team. As you can see, we are very, very close.
The Cougars were eliminated by a very bad inning against Clear Spring, an ugly eight-run fifth inning that started with a walk by starting pitcher Dalton Williams and quickly spun out of control from there.
Williams, a senior who will pitch for Division I High Point University next year, admittedly didn’t have his best.
“The first two runs I felt good,” he said. “I don’t know why, but after a little while I started to lose the feel of my slider and both of my seams [fastball]. It started to go down from there.
Catoctin rallied to score three runs late in the sixth. But after Clear Spring put four more in the top of the seventh, the game was definitely out of reach.
“We just couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Franklin said. “When things are bad, you just need this tourniquet.”
The Cougars got another big game at the plate from junior Joey McMannis, who homered, doubled and drove in three runs.
Senior third baseman Logan Simanski also had an RBI brace and made some great defensive plays in his last game at Catoctin.
“I loved every minute and gave it my all,” he said of his time playing for the Cougars. “We’re all close, and that’s why it stings more than it should, I feel like.
“Every day we work hard here. I’ve played with these guys all my life. It kills me [to see it end].”
The four seniors on the team, Williams, Simanski, catcher Dylan Nicholson and pitcher/infielder Noland Kinna, intend to play college baseball.
“It’s not about wins and losses. They can be coached,” Franklin said of his players. “Man, they work hard. They never complain. I’m going to train a group like that anytime.
As for seeing the season end on Tuesday, Franklin said: “You want to repeat [as state champs]. That’s the point. But hi, [Clear Spring] fight us. They just beat us. The best team won today.
Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek