A humbling loss a little less than a month ago served as inspiration for West York's baseball team in its quest to win a second straight York-Adams League Tournament title.
"After we played our first game against Spring Grove and got blown out at home (10-2), Coach (Greg) Kinneman said 'Spring Grove is going to be there in the championship game. Are you guys going to be there?'" Bulldogs' pitcher Joe Prego said on Tuesday evening.
West York needed a little help (New Oxford's victory over Kennard-Dale on the final day of the regular season) to even make the tournament. Once the Bulldogs got there, they needed no aid whatsoever.
West York combined two outstanding pitching performances in a row with excellent defense and timely hitting to repeat as York-Adams champions.
After Brett Kinneman struck out 11 in a 4-2 semifinal victory over Delone Catholic on Monday evening, Prego followed 24 hours later with a complete-game performance in a 3-1 championship triumph over Spring Grove, the same team that beat the Bulldogs by eight runs on April 19.
Prego wasn't overpowering (no strikeouts), but he issued just two walks, with the first one not coming until the sixth inning. The right-hander allowed eight hits, all singles. However, he forced Spring Grove to strand eight baserunners. The Bulldogs turned two double plays behind Prego.
"When I keep the walks down, I'm on my game," he said. "I have a great infield behind me. We know people compared us to last year's team, but we can deal with that. We're a completely different group."
West York head coach Roger Czerwinski said that as recently as three weeks ago, his team was still searching for an identity.
"We said we have strong pitching, strong fielding, but we need someone to step up with the bats," Czerwinski said. "Tonight, I think you saw, we had disciplined hitting."
The Bulldogs collected just four hits off Spring Grove pitcher Nick Spangler, but they bunched them all into a three-run second inning.
Logan Stover got things started with single to right and moved to second on Cole Bixler's sacrifice bunt. Carson Fries then jumped on a 2-0 pitch and drove the ball into the left-field corner for a double, scoring Stover with the game's first run. Following a strikeout, Brett Kinneman singled Fries to third. Kinneman stole second base to put runners on second and third for Chase James. James worked the count to 2-and-2 before singling into right-center to score Fries and Kinneman.
"Nick Spangler is a really good pitcher," James said. "We played a long time together (on the Mason-Dixon Ruffnecks traveling team). I was lucky to get an outside pitch, and I was able to drive it over the second baseman's head."
Spring Grove scored its run in the fourth on consecutive singles by Trevor Troxel, Will Maughlin and Dalton Hoiles. Hoiles and Troxel had two hits apiece for the Rockets.
Spangler pitched very well in defeat recording seven strikeouts and just one walk.
The Rockets, though, couldn't get enough clutch hits against Prego, who located his pitches very well. The senior retired 10 batters on flyballs or popups and 11 batters on ground balls.
Bulldogs' center fielder Brandon Rauhauser provided Prego with a major lift when he raced in to spear a line drive off the bat of Maughlin. There were two runners on base with two outs in the first inning when Rauhauser made his catch.
Prego, who won five games as the No. 3 pitcher on last year's York-Adams and state Class AAA title team, earned the victory in the big game on the big stage at Sovereign Bank Stadium.
"I've been waiting for it (the chance to pitch in a championship game) for a long time," he said.
Czerwinski had Brandon Kinneman warm up when West York batted in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
"Brandon has a lot of experience in big games, and Joey doesn't have a lot of big-game experience," Czerwinski said. "Once we got to the seventh inning, though, it was Joey's game."
When the final out was recorded, the West York players tossed their gloves into the air and jumped on a dog pile near the pitcher's mound.
"Back-to-back years is pretty special," Czerwinski said. "Although, we have players back this year, we still have a lot of youth. This is a nice building block for them."
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.