BINGHAMTON — Danny Lowndes just didn’t want the historic trip to end.
Down to the final strike of the season, the junior outfielder did everything he could to keep the Arlington High School baseball team alive.
Determined not to become the ninth strikeout victim of the day — let alone ending the 2013 campaign with the tying run in the on-deck circle — Lowndes fought off several pitches, fouling off four straight the other way in the top of Saturday’s seventh inning.
“I was right on him, the whole at-bat,” said Lowndes, recalling his final swings against Clarence pitcher Mark Armstrong, a third-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds. “He was pitching good the whole game, and I just got the last one a little bit and popped it up. Nothing you can do.”
Despite his efforts to keep the season alive, he eventually flew out to right field, as Clarence shut the door on Arlington in the state Class AA semifinals at Binghamton University, 5-2.
Not that the Admirals (20-6) headed home to Freedom Plains deflated. On the contrary, Arlington’s head coach said he wanted his players, particularly his departing seniors, to relish the fact they reached the state semifinals for the first time since 1987.
“It’s the end of the season. I know we’re at the state final four and we wanted to walk away with a state championship,” Al Hammell said, “but I talked to them a lot about the learning process. I also talked to them about all they’ve done here in four years, in terms of turning our program into a state powerhouse-type level program.”
Drew Lugbauer, for one, got the message.
His 1-for-2 day, which included a walk, an RBI and a run scored, capped a junior season which brought both memories he’ll long remember and the motivation to make even more such moments as a senior.
“Oh, it’s a great experience,” said Lugbauer, Arlington’s catcher. “We haven’t been here in 26 years, so that’ll be the foundation for more to come.”
Three runs in the Red Devils’ final two at-bats kept the Admirals from extending their season to Saturday’s title game.
After two scoreless innings, ones in which Arlington fanned four times and stranded three runners, Lugbauer singled home Lowndes with the game’s first run before he scored on Kyle Dinges’ single to center.
“We get up 2-0, I thought we had it,” Lugbauer said. “I thought if we got more runs, we had it, but they capitalized on some mistakes and got it done.”
Clarence answered with single runs in both the third and fourth, before Armstrong (2 for 2) smacked a two-run homer over the left-field fence, putting the Red Devils ahead for good.
“You tip your hat to the kid,” said Hammell, whose team gave up an insurance run in the sixth. “He really had a nice day. It’s not too often one player can singlehandedly come out and really do that type of damage to you on the baseball field, and he certainly did today.”
Arlington stranded six runners — “We certainly had our opportunities, too,” Hammell said — but the Admirals said they’ll focus on the future, not the past, moving forward.
“We worked really hard over the offseason to get to this point,” Lowndes said after his 2-for-4 effort. “Next year, we’re going to work even harder and hopefully come back again. We’ll have a very strong team next year, as we did this year.”