Longtime Windsor manager Nate Neff finally gets his championship

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

It was a night that Nate Neff has been waiting for a long, long time.

Over 50 years to be exact.

The Windsor Cardinals manager, who holds nearly all of the Susquehanna League’s managerial records, has skippered his club on the outskirts of Red Lion for the past 23 years.

He’s had some really good teams along the way.

He’s had some not-so-good ones as well.

But on Wednesday, Neff finally captured the one thing that had eluded him and his organization for over half a decade — a Susquehanna League regular-season title.

Longtime Windsor manager Nate Neff watches warm-ups before a game at Jacobus Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Neff will likely become the all-time leader in managerial wins in Susquehanna League baseball history. In his baseball career, he's played for 30 years and managed for 22 – all with the Cardinals. The team's home diamond, Wilmer Neff Field, is named after his father. Bill Kalina photo

Neff and his Cardinals claimed the crown on East Prospect’s home field. The bat of Zach Gettys — who drove in two runs with a first-inning single — and the arm of Jason Kreiger — who surrendered just one hit — were enough to carry Windsor to its first league title since 1971 with a thrilling 2-0 shutout.

“Feeling pretty good,” Neff said with a smile. “We’re really satisfied and pretty happy right now.”

Most teams typically drench their boss in either water or beer after a monumental victory, but not so Wednesday.

Neff’s crew knew that years ago when the Cardinals skipper was coaching youth football that his neck was dinged up pretty good when a player tried to dump the water cooler on his head only to miss.

“One of the kids tried to put the cooler on me and hit me in the back of the head,” Neff said of that unfortunate occasion many years ago. “So (anything that hits my head) messes my neck up, so none of that.”

Windsor's Zach Gettys hits a bases loaded, 3-run double in the third inning during Susquehanna League play at Windsor Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

More to do: What the Cardinals boss will have is a chance to manage in the York County Championship this weekend for the first time ever. Wednesday’s victory also locked up a much-coveted berth into the Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament over Labor Day weekend.

It also gave Neff a chance to celebrate a regular-season title for the first time since he was young player for the Cardinals back in 1970 and 1971. Those two teams were the last Windsor teams to claim a title — either league or playoff.

“Before, all I could say is that I won one as a player,” Neff said. “But this is my first as a manager, and it was well worth the wait.”

That statement could be taken two ways.

For one, Neff’s 23-year run without a title as a manager was nearly unheard of for someone with as much success as Neff had seen over the years.

For the other, Wednesday’s contest only happened after rain forced the originally scheduled contest Tuesday back a night.

The extra day certainly seemed to help. The Cardinals fell behind 2-0 on Tuesday, but that deficit was erased by a downpour that drenched York Township’s home field.

Making the most a second chance: Getting a mulligan, the Cardinals raced out to a 2-0 lead on the back of a single by Gettys.

Longtime Windsor manager Nate Neff talks with an umpire during the plate meeting before a game at Jacobus Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Neff will likely become the all-time leader in managerial wins in Susquehanna League baseball history. In his baseball career, he's played for 30 years and managed for 22 – all with the Cardinals. The team's home diamond, Wilmer Neff Field, is named after his father. Bill Kalina photo

That was plenty enough for Krieger, who already has an NCAA Division I scholarship offer to play baseball at the University of Maine. The Red Lion rising senior gave up a leadoff hit to Caleb Sturtevant but was bailed out when catcher Julian Bailey got Sturtevant at first.

Krieger then retired the final 20 batters in order to complete the one-hitter, in which he walked none and fanned five.

“Jason was tremendous,” Neff said. “Gave up just one hit and then retired the final 20 batters. I don’t think he even got to a three-ball count once.”

One many nights like the one Wednesday, the Pistons would have prevailed behind a strong effort on the mound from Zach Sacoman. Sacoman, who pitched one inning Tuesday, allowed just six hits while walking none.

YCC clash: The Cardinals will have a few days to celebrate and feel good before this weekend’s YCC against Central League champ Stoverstown. The Tigers have dropped but one game all season and enter the series as the prohibitive favorites.

Neff, whose team was deadlocked 4-4 with the Tigers in the last inning of their interleague clash before Nick Spangler drilled a walk-off grand slam, knows the Cardinals will have to bring their A-game if they want to claim the organization’s first-ever YCC crown.

“They’re good,” Neff said. “I have a lot of respect for them. They’re a good program and they’re always good. We’re just going to look forward and see what we can do against them.”

Longtime Windsor manager Nate Neff walks past the dugout before a game at Jacobus Wednesday, June 9, 2021. He will likely become the all-time leader in managerial wins in Susquehanna League baseball history. In his baseball career, he's played for 30 years and managed for 22 years – all with the Cardinals. The team's home diamond, Wilmer Neff Field, is named after his father. Bill Kalina photo