Big-league dream cut short as Inter-Ac/Independents fall in Carpenter Cup

Posted: June 15, 2012

For 27 years, the Carpenter Cup has been more than just an all-star high school baseball tournament. Since the tournament's inception in 1986 at Veterans Stadium, event not only provides top-notch competition, it also gives the athletes a chance to realize a major league dream. This year's semifinals and championship game will be played at Citizens Bank Park, the home of most of these players' big-league idols.

Ultimately, this dream would not be realized for the Inter-Ac/Independents, who fell 5-3 to defending champion Lehigh Valley, at Ashburn Field on Friday morning. Their quarterfinal exit left them just one game shy of the chance to play in a big-league stadium. But the loss was not without consolation, as they had a little piece of Citizens Bank Park at Ashburn Field.

A few minutes before the 9 a.m. start time, both teams were introduced, and a familiar voice boomed out of the public address system. It was Dan Baker, who has been the Phillies' public address announcer since 1972. Although he was not at the Inter-Ac/Independents' first-round victory over Delaware South, Baker, who has been involved with the Carpenter Cup for the better part of two decades, will call 10 of the Carpenter Cup's 15 games this year.

"I enjoy this very much. I love baseball. I think this is a great showcase," Baker said. "A lot of these kids will get college scholarships as a result of this exposure and maybe sign a professional baseball contract. It's a great outreach program for the Phillies to get involved in local high school baseball."

Baker watched as the Inter-Ac/Independents tallied runs in each of the first three innings but failed to deliver an early knockout blow. The Inter-Ac/Independents were patient at the plate, picking up five walks in the early going, but left six runners on base in the first three frames.

"We had a chance to put this one away early," coach Freddy Hilliard said. "If we built that lead up to five or six, the pressure comes off a bit, but Lehigh Valley capitalized on our mistakes."

Lehigh Valley struck back in the top of the fifth, scoring its first run on a double by Pocono Mountain East's Evan Fardella and adding another on a sacrifice fly by Pen Argyl's Jay Young. Fardella added a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to drive in his second run and tie the game.

The Inter-Ac/Independents' bats went silent as they were shut down by Lehigh Valley's bullpen. Nazareth pitcher Dan Horvath and Northampton pitcher Matt Yanek combined for five scoreless innings to close the game, combining for only two hits and eight strikeouts.

"I told these guys before the game that they had to dominate the routine play," Hilliard said. "If you don't make routine plays and allow extra bases, I don't care what level you're at, that's going to kill any team."

For some of the Inter-Ac/Independent players, the loss marked the end of their high school careers. Many of the Carpenter Cup participants have earned scholarships and will continue to play in college.

Citizens Bank Park would not be the end of the line for the Inter-Ac/Independents, but hearing Baker's familiar baritone announce their name as each player stepped up to bat allowed them to live out a little piece of their major league dream.

"It was cool stepping up to the plate and hearing the same guy who's announced Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, all of our favorite players. We tried to stay more focused on our at-bats," Friends' Central's Brian Rubin said. "It's unfortunate that we lost. Everybody was really looking forward to playing at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, but we're glad that Mr. Baker could be here and give us part of the experience." n

Contact Daniel Carp at carpd@phillynews.com.

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