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REMARKABLE RUN: Redbank Valley Baseball Season Ends in 4-0 Loss to North Star in PIAA Quarterfinals to Close Final Chapter on Unprecedented Streak of Success This School Year

HOMER CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — At midseason, the Redbank Valley baseball team was reeling.

The Bulldogs were in a skid. They weren’t playing well and the prospect of a repeating as the District 9 Class 2A champions was dimming.

“We had a couple of heart-to-heart conversations,” said Redbank Valley coach Craig Hibell about the soul-searching after a stretch of four losses in five games at the beginning of May. “We talked to some individuals. We talked to the guys as a team. I really think what it came down to was they didn’t want to go out the way we were heading. The direction we were going was not a good direction. Three or four weeks ago, I didn’t have a lot of confidence.”

That changed.

Redbank righted itself, winning four straight — three by one run, including a 2-1 victory over Moniteau to win another D9 title, and a gutsy 5-4 triumph in the opening round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs on Monday.

That magic, however, ran out in the second round of the state playoffs on Thursday afternoon at First National Bank Field as the Bulldogs were one-hit in a 4-0 loss to North Star.

“We did what kids from Redbank Valley do,” Hibell said. “We fought back from adversity.”

The Bulldogs (16-6) ran into a talented team in North Star with a loaded pitching staff.

Starter Cayden Turner was masterful. The big left-hander took a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh before a one-out single by Ty Carrier broke it up. Turner gave Redbank Valley hitters a steady diet of curveballs, which produced 11 groundouts on the think infield grass at First National Bank Field.

The Cougar defense was flawless behind Turner.

“A lot of ground balls that they played great defense on,” Hibell said. “(Turner) kept us off balance without throwing a whole lot of fastballs. We just got out in front too much. That’s something we’ve done before against slower pitchers. The combination of a slow infield and a pitcher who throws ground balls was a winning combination for them.”

Turner went 6⅔ innings, leaving with a pitch count of 99. He gave up just that one hit, struck out seven and walked three.

Vince Kimmel, who has not given up an earned run in 36⅔ innings this season, got the final out for North Star.

“If you ask (Turner), he’d throw 200 pitches if we needed him to,” said North Star coach Jake Klukaszewski. “We had two outs in the seventh and we had a guy with a 0.00 ERA waiting and we brought him in and it worked out.

“We’re just humbled to be here,” Klukaszewski added. “We’re humbled to play a great team like Redbank Valley and to move on to the next round.”

While Turner was putting up zeros, so was Redbank Valley starter Ty Carrier.

North Star threatened in the first inning with runners on first and third with one out, but Andy Retassie was thrown out on a double steal attempt and Carrier got a line out back to himself to end the threat.

The Cougars had something going again in the top of the third with two on, but Carrier got out of that jam, too.

It wasn’t until the top of the fifth inning when North Star finally broke though, scoring on a two-out RBI double by Connor Yoder — the only hard-hit ball of the day by either team.

The Cougars added three more insurance runs in the top of the seventh — plenty for Turner and Kimmel.

Carrier went 6⅓ innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits. He struck out six and walked three. Jaxon Huffman got the final two outs.

“We didn’t have a plan to throw Ty that much,” Hibell said. “But when he was cruising as well as he was, we just wanted to let him go. I think he gave up one hard-hit ball the entire game. I appreciate his effort and the amount he was really grinding and kept them off balance.”

North Star (21-4), which now has a 1.65 team ERA after the shutout win, will take on Bald Eagle, which downed Moniteau on Thursday, in the semifinals on Monday.

“We have a tough one on Monday,” Klukaszewski said. “Two years ago we were 15-5 and lost the (District 5) championship. Last year we were 15-5 and lost the district championship. We have seven seniors in our lineup and I told them this is the year we’d cross the finish line. This was a great old-school baseball game. It was exciting and those guys over there were tough.”

This ends a remarkable run for many of the Redbank Valley seniors.

Owen Clouse has been a part of four District 9 championships this school year alone, winning titles in football, soccer, basketball and baseball. He also won a baseball championship last year with the Bulldogs.

“I don’t have any proof or record of this, but if you can find me a group of seniors that have won more District 9 titles than these guys, I’d be surprised,” Hibell said. “I’m not surprised that this group did that in team sports, either, because they a team-first group of seniors. They don’t care about the glory. They’re all willing to do whatever the dirty work is to help us as a team and it’s paid dividends for them.”