STATE COLLEGE -- When the final out of the baseball season was recorded -- one that almost no one could have predicted -- West York's players celebrated by piling on each other near the pitcher's mound at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The Bulldogs constructed the dog pile on Friday after completing their bid for back-to-back state Class AAA championships by edging Upper Moreland, 2-1.
West York, which was a mediocre 9-7 at one point this season, closed at 21-8, and on top of the PIAA AAA field again.
MORE PHOTOS (Randy Flaum)
"Last year was different," West York's Brandon Kinneman said. "We scored 10 runs a game, and Kaden (Hepler) went out and shut people down. This year, it was a lot tougher. First of all, we had a huge target on our back. Everyone wants to come out and beat us. To withstand that punch early in the year and come back the way we did was unbelievable. They're (the championships) both very special, and I'm going to remember them the rest of my life."
Kinneman pitched the first five innings of the championship game before being relieved by Carson Fries, when Kinneman walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Fries, who earned victories in the first three state playoff games, saved the final one. The junior right-hander retired six of the seven batters he faced, four on strikeouts.
"I just wanted to keep the ball out of the middle of the strike zone," Fries said. "Coach (Roger Czerwinski) said after the fifth inning that 'you're going to be the first one to go in if anything bad happens with Brandon.'"
Kinneman made up in tenacity what he sometimes lacked in control (six walks). The senior left-hander held the District 1 team to four hits and forced the Golden Bears to strand seven runners.
"My stuff was average, but I battled and made pitches when I needed to, and that's all that matters," Kinneman said. "In the first inning (when Upper Moreland scored its run), I was nervous, but to get out only giving up one run, and come in here and get two runs back right away settled me in."
Fries, ignited the second-inning rally with one-out single to right field.
The next hitter, Nick Traettino, reached on catcher's interference, and Chase James followed with a run-scoring single to right field. Leadoff hitter Brandon Rauhauser, then laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to bring in Traettino with what turned out to be the final run of the game.
Rauhauser missed on the first squeeze, but he came through on the second one.
"Given their (Upper Moreland's) ability to come from behind, it was inevitable that we were going to suicide squeeze given the opportunity," Czerwinski said.
"It's funny. A PCN reporter asked me before the game 'what's it going to take (for West York) to win?' I said, 'Brandon's going to have to throw five, Carson's going to have to throw two, and we'll have to get a squeeze down. Well, all three happened."
The two runs were just enough for Kinneman and Fries. West York completed its fabulous run with a second state crown. Along the way, the Bulldogs won four games in a row (one in District 3 and three in states) in their last at-bat.
"I, honest to God, can't honestly stand here and say we had the most talented team in the tournament," Czerwinski said. "However, I believe, though, that the fight they (the West York players) have in them in is what made the difference this year, and certainly today as well."
West York lost four starters, including its top pitcher, from last year's team, but the Bulldogs refused be denied in the drive to repeat.
"Mentally, we felt that one last year wasn't good enough," Fries said.
Kinneman said the team just clicked when it was only two games above .500.
"Our chemistry got better, and we started to trust each other. In the beginning of the year, if we went down, 1-0, in the first inning, we couldn't win. We started winning big games, and we got lucky to win some of those games."
The Bulldogs may be in position to make another run in 2014.
Only two seniors, Kinneman and Rauhauser, started in Friday's game.
"Our seniors, Brandon and Brandon, really pushed us to the next level," Czerwinski said. "We'll get back in the weight room in about two or three weeks and start focusing on next year."
In the meantime, the Bulldogs can savor their extremely worthy accomplishment this year.
Fries and Brandon Wetzel each had two hits in the final game. Fries, a junior, batted a sizzling .636 in the state games.
West York is just the sixth school to win consecutive championships since the PIAA began sponsoring state baseball playoffs in 1977.
Reach Dick Vanolinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.