End of an era comes too soon for se­niors

Close-knit group emo­tional af­ter de­feat to Ben­salem

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - SPORTS - By An­drew Robin­son arobin­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

AS­TON » Eric Marash­eski paced the short­stop’s place on the field at Neu­mann Univer­sity, hop­ing to add a cou­ple more mo­ments to his time in a La Salle uni­form.

About 15 min­utes ear­lier, Marash­eski and his Ex­plor­ers team­mates saw their dream sea­son come to an end in a 5-4, eight in­ning loss to Ben­salem in the PIAA 6A base­ball semi­fi­nals as the Owls got to con­tinue their own dream sea­son. It was a wrench­ing end­ing for the La Salle se­niors, who led the pro­gram to its best sea­son since 2014, but fell two wins short of their ultimate goal.

Still, for Marash­eski and his class­mates, the emo­tion wasn’t over the loss but the fact they wouldn’t ever get to take the same field in the same uni­form again.

“These team­mates are guys I’m never go­ing to for­get,” Marash­eski said. “Years from now, I’ll for­get wins and losses but it’s the team that you’re go­ing to miss. That’s why I’m so emo­tional right now, be­cause I won’t get to play with these guys ever again.”

La Salle grad­u­ated on May 26, but the base­ball team was still to­gether for at least a few hours ev­ery day af­ter that whether it was prac­tice or a game. Many of the Ex­plor­ers se­niors are play­ing at the next level, but not all of them, which Marash­eski said added to the emo­tional end­ing.

Some of the se­niors like Marasheshki, An­drew and An­thony Cos­setti and Brian Schaub, were im­pact guys for mul­ti­ple sea­sons. Oth­ers, like ace pitcher Joe Miller, out­fielder Joe Sortino and cen­ter fielder Shane Manieri, broke into larger roles this sea­son.

“This is such a close-knit group, we’re all tight and some of my best friends are on this team,” se­nior out­fielder Joe Sortino said. “Ev­ery­body is more up­set about leav­ing each other than the loss.”

La Salle started eight se­niors in its nine bat­ting spots all post­sea­son, but there were even more se­niors who ac­cepted lesser roles as re­serves or bench play­ers just to be part of the team. Hunter McGar­vey, who has com­mit­ted to Rich­mond, spent the year as a backup catcher be­hind An­drew Cos­setti or as a spot re­liever, never know­ing if or when he’d get into a game.

Ex­plor­ers coach Kyle Wer­man said the thing that stuck out to him about the se­nior class was how those guys got the team to pre­pare and play ev­ery game the same way.

“This se­nior class is prob­a­bly one of the most tal­ented that

La Salle has had, a lot of guys were on var­sity early, so we’ve been to­gether for a while,” An­drew Cos­setti said. “This year, we de­cided to go out with a bang and we played well all through­out the sea­son. It was tough to see it end like this.

“When you have guys as tal­ented as them be­ing able to take those roles and know what they can do for the team, it makes ev­ery­body’s job eas­ier and the team that much bet­ter.”

The se­niors also felt un­ful­filled at the start of the sea­son, hav­ing not ad­vanced out of the open­ing round of the PCL play­offs in their first three years. Sortino said that was all the mo­ti­va­tion they needed to get through off­sea­son work­outs and the like and fu­eled that prepa­ra­tion.

Their work paid off as La Salle fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son atop the PCL stand­ings, went on to win its first PCL tour­na­ment ti­tle since 2013, won the District 12 ti­tle and ad­vanced to the state semi­fi­nals in its first state ap­pear­ance since 2014. None of the ac­tive play­ers had done any of that, and by all mea­sure, it was a strong sea­son.

On Tues­day, the Ex­plor­ers se­niors knew that, but also weren’t ready to think about it yet.

“It goes be­yond the game of base­ball,” Cos­setti said. “It’s about fam­ily here at La Salle and that’s what we were, a fam­ily. We all con­nected through base­ball and I call these guys my broth­ers, I’m sad to see them go.”

Wer­man noted most teams end on a loss and un­der­stood the emo­tions the en­tire team showed af­ter the end of Tues­day’s con­test. It will be a vastly dif­fer­ent look­ing La Salle team next year but Wer­man felt the se­niors left a strong legacy that should shape the pro­gram in coming sea­sons.

“We played the same base­ball ev­ery day and that’s hard to do in high school base­ball,” Wer­man said. “Our guys com­posed them­selves to al­low us to have a chance to win ev­ery time we stepped on the field. For our young guys, we have a group of juniors and a sopho­more in this group along for the ride and my hope is they can pick up how our se­niors car­ried them­selves ev­ery day.”

“Be­ing a se­nior-heavy group put the juniors in hard spot be­cause there’s a lot of tal­ented juniors there who could be play­ing but I think we tried to set a good role model for them,” Marash­eski said. “We talked about it all year, be­ing a team and that’s why it hurts so much be­cause we were a team and were so close-knit.”

Sortino, who is at­tend­ing Vil­lanova and hop­ing to walk on the base­ball team there, went out with a 4-for-4 day out of the No. 8 spot while fel­low se­nior Matt Acker had three sac bunts and a sin­gle in the No. 9 spot. Both play­ers could eas­ily hit higher on many other line­ups but em­braced their roles as part of a win­ning team.

While his time at La Salle is up, Sortino noted a lot of the play­ers are stay­ing rel­a­tively close for col­lege and the en­tire sea­son is one he’ll re­mem­ber for years to come.

“I came to var­sity as a ju­nior, most of my close friends were there as sopho­mores but it just al­lowed us to be­come closer,” Sortino said. “I de­vel­oped those friend­ships a lot and even the juniors coming up this year be­came close friends with us in the se­nior class. I hope they’re able to keep the com­raderie in the dugout and how well we got along.

“We kept it loose all sea­son long, even in a game like this down to the end. In prior sea­sons, we’d tighten up and things would go bad but this year we kept it loose, had fun and we were win­ning games.”

Both Cos­setti and Marash­eski agreed with Sortino that they’d stay close with their team­mates no mat­ter if it were one, five, 10 or more years down the road. It’s also what prompted the short­stop, one last time, to feel dirt un­der his cleats in a La Salle uni­form.

“I just didn’t want it to end, I wanted one last view, one last feel out there,” Marash­eski said. “That’s what made it so emo­tional at the end, think­ing of my team­mates.

“It hurts right now, it’s prob­a­bly go­ing to hurt for a while but I know when I think back on it, I’ll be happy with what we were able to ac­com­plish.”

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

La Salle’s An­thony Cos­setti slides into home as Ben­salem’s Scott Rooney fields the throw Tues­day in the PIAA 6A semi­fi­nals.

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