Colin Porter went just 1-for-6 for the York College baseball team in the doubleheader two weeks ago against visiting Salisbury.
It was a rematch of last year's Capital Athletic Conference championship game.
Porter's lone hit was a single in the second inning of the second game. It moved teammate Derek Pitzer over to third base. Porter, a senior shortstop from South Western High School, would be part of a double play two batters later. But the Spartans scored a run on the play and went on to win, 5-3, sweeping the doubleheader from the defending CAC champs. Salisbury was ranked No. 7 in the nation in the NCAA Division III rankings at the time.
"Those games we were locked in. Everybody was playing well. Pitching, hitting, defense. Everybody was doing their job," Porter said. "We figured out then 'hey, we're going to be a pretty good team this year and we're gonna be a tough team to beat in the conference.'"
Fast forward to Monday afternoon and the Spartans are 11-2 overall and all alone atop the CAC with a perfect 7-0 conference record. Although it's still early in the season, York appears to be much improved from the first two seasons under Head Coach Mike Scappa, when the Spartans went a combined 44-41 overall and 17-16 in the conference, including a 6-9 record in CAC action last season.
Blue collar: Their baseball field having been rendered unplayable from the wintry mix of snow and sleet the night before, the York College baseball players on Monday were instead practicing on the turf soccer field just outside the Grumbacher Center.
"We've only had maybe four days of practicing on the (baseball) field," Scappa said.
By the sounds of things, though, these Spartans don't mind the inconveniences caused by the cold temperatures and winter weather that has pushed them to practicing on the soccer field or taking batting practice under nets in the auxiliary gym at the Grumbacher Center.
"The one thing about us is we don't have a lot of hot-shot guys. We're more of a blue-collar team," Scappa said.
They can play a blue-collar, small-style ball, too. In their last win, 4-2 over St. Mary's last Thursday, the Spartans collected their runs in two innings on a combined two walks, two bunts, two stolen bases, an error, a wild pitch, a two-run single and a sacrifice-fly RBI.
"Maybe in previous years we would've dropped that game or be tied at four or something like that," Scappa said.
Versatile, experienced: The difference this season is more than just the ability to play small ball. These Spartans have proven thus far they can do just about anything offensively.
"We still have big, strong hitters. We have guys that can hit the gaps and get some doubles. A multi-dimensional offense as opposed to being station to station. We're never playing one type of game," Scappa said.
One of those big hitters is Porter, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 200-pound right-handed batter who is averaging .381 at the plate with a pair of homers and six doubles. He's one of five York starters batting plus-.300. Dallastown grad Derek Pitzer, a junior first baseman, leads the team in batting average (.395).
In addition, Scappa said his third baseman and second baseman are former shortstops, which makes for a speedy defense that stops more ground balls. And his two catchers are seniors.
"So they can help those pitchers. When you get in a tough spot you trust your catcher," Scappa said.
All of this has led to the best start for a York team since 2009, when the Spartans began the year 16-2 and later reached the NCAA D-III playoffs.
For some reason, York is not yet listed in the D-III top 25 rankings, while Salisbury (15-6 overall, 11-4 CAC), a team York swept two weeks ago, is still ranked 15th.
"Yeah, it would be pretty neat (to be ranked) now, but the only thing that matters is the regional rankings by the selection committee in the last month of the season," Scappa said. "That's really the only thing that matters."
The Spartans are on the road at Frostburg State (15-4, 5-2) on Tuesday and Penn State Harrisburg (4-17, 1-8) on Wednesday before returning home Thursday to host Messiah (8-6) at 3:30 p.m.
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.