PHILADELPHIA - Despite the sweltering heat at Citizens Bank Park on Monday morning, recent Ocean City High School graduate Beau Hall still got chills when he toed the rubber for Tri-Cape during the Carpenter Cup baseball tournament.
Hall had been to the ballpark dozens of times to watch the Phillies. But to pitch from the same mound where Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and others perform was thrilling.
"Being here as a fan doesn't even compare," Hall said after Tri-Cape's 4-1 loss to Lehigh Valley in a semifinal game. "You can even sit right behind the dugout and it's not the same as being on the field. This was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life."
Getting the opportunity to play in the Phillies' home stadium and seeing their names on the giant video scoreboard behind the left-field bleachers helped ease the sting of a frustrating defeat.
Tri-Cape, which consists of players from the Tri-County Conference and Cape-Atlantic League, has never won the championship in the 28-year history of the Carpenter Cup. A lack of key hits and some costly fielding mistakes Monday prevented the team from reaching the tournament final for the first time since 2006.
Instead, Lehigh Valley will seek its second title in three years when it faces Jersey Shore or Mercer County in the championship game today. Their semifinal game was suspended with Mercer County leading 2-1 in the top of the seventh inning and will resume at 9:30 this morning, with the championship game starting one hour later.
"Playing here was a dream come true for some of these kids and was a great experience for them," said Tri-Cape assistant coach Mike Bylone (St. Augustine Prep). "I just wish we could have gotten to the final. We just didn't get enough key hits and we gave up three unearned runs. When you're playing in an all-star game, that's not a good recipe (for success)."
Tri-Cape, which is now 31-26 all time in the Carpenter Cup, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Chris Adorno (St. Augustine) drew a walk, stole second and scored on a Hermits teammate Barry Buchowski's triple.
Buchowski, this season's Press Player of the Year, drove a 3-2 pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark. The ball landed on the warning track and bounced against the wall 409 feet from the plate. A couple of feet to the right and it would have landed in the shrubbery just behind the waist-high fence in center.
"I've had the opportunity to play in major-league stadiums before, but everybody was struck with awe because we were playing in the stadium of our favorite team," said Buchowski, who has played in showcase events at Chase Field in Phoenix and the Metrodome in Minneapolis. "I actually thought the ball was out when I hit it, but I just hit it to the wrong spot. But it was still an unbelievable feeling."
Buchowski, who is headed to Tulane University in the fall, was stranded at third base. St. Augustine teammate Mike Elfreth smacked a triple over the Lehigh Valley right fielder's head in the fifth inning, but also didn't score.
Tri-Cape collected seven hits against four Lehigh Valley pitchers but left seven runners on base. The defense also committed three errors while the pitching staff surrendered eight hits.
Don Money (Vineland), Hall and Kyle Andrews (Ocean City) were among the hurlers who threw one inning apiece in relief of Tri-Cape starter Mike Schwaryn (Gloucester Catholic). Schwaryn was drafted by the Kansas City Royals last week but will attend the University of Maryland.
Hall, who is headed to Georgetown University, pitched the sixth inning.
"It was really hot on the mound," Hall said. "I usually like to work really fast, but I had to slow myself down a little bit. But the whole experience was insane. Just being out there, looking around and looking up to where 50,000 people sit, it was crazy."
Buchowski and Elfreth were the only local players to get hits Monday, though Adorno, John Bruccoleri (Atlantic City), Robert Bunton (Buena Regional), Kyle Cox (Millville), Troy Dixon (Egg Harbor Township), Chris Newman (Cedar Creek) and Doug Schwartz (Middle Township) all got a chance to hit and play the field.
As disappointed as they were with the result, they will still cherish the experience.
"I've been here a bunch of times, but there's nothing like being on the field," Schwartz said. "It was awesome."
Contact David Weinberg:
Tri-Cape 100 000 000-1 7 3
Lehigh Valley 010 102 00x-4 8 1
2B- Buskirk LV; 3B-Buchowski, Elfreth TC.
WP-Kosciolek 2Ks. LP-Hall 0Ks.
Records: Tri-Cape 2-1; Lehigh Valley 3-0.