SPRING GROVE — Somehow. Someway.
That's the unofficial motto of the West York baseball team, which has consistently found ways to win a series of huge games over the past four seasons.
The Bulldogs, who have two state titles on their recent resume (2012 and 2013), found a way to win their third York-Adams League title in four years on Tuesday afternoon by edging Eastern York, 3-2, at Spring Grove High School.
"I didn't have my best stuff, and I didn't think we swung the bats that well, but we played good defense, and we had timely hitting," West York pitcher/outfielder Brett Kinneman said. "We put it together when we needed it. That's West York baseball for you."
The Bulldogs played small ball to capture their biggest game of this season.
After watching a 2-0 lead disappear when Eastern struck for two runs in the top of the seventh inning, West York answered with the winning run in its final at-bat.
Leadoff hitter Brandon Sheffer hit the first pitch back up the middle into center field. Sheffer, who delivered two hits on the day, stole second, and Colton Kubicki followed by drawing a walk. Then, in a bold move, Sheffer and Kubicki executed a double steal, putting runners at second and third with no outs.
Following a strikeout, West York's No. 2 hitter, Cash Gladfelter, stepped into the batter's box. After Gladfelter took the first pitch for a strike, Sheffer broke for home on the second pitch. Gladfelter laid down a perfect bunt, and Sheffer raced across the plate with the winning run.
"When our offense is sputtering a little, that's the small ball game we play," West York head coach Roger Czerwinski said. "When the players came in for the bottom of the seventh inning, Brett (Kinneman) said, 'you guys have got to stop stressing.' From inside the heart, that Bulldog mentality comes out in a ballgame."
West York's game-winning suicide squeeze didn't surprise Eastern.
"We were prepared for it," Golden Knights' head coach Blaine Garner said. "They had to put it down right, and they did."
Gladfelter was taking all the way on the first pitch.
"He (Czerwinski) wanted me to watch the first pitch because they were in bunt depth," Gladfelter said. "The second pitch was the one. You never want to end a game on a suicide squeeze, especially a championship game, but I had to do what I had to do to win the championship."
Gladfelter shines: Gladfelter had a really good day with the bat, going 3-for-4 (bunt single, single and a triple). He also came in to relieve Kinneman in the sixth inning with runners at second and third and just one out. Gladfelter escaped the jam by striking out the first two hitters he faced. Eastern got to Gladfelter for two runs in the seventh inning, although only one run was earned.
"I was pretty anxious going into the seventh inning with the hitters they had coming up, and their (leadoff) hitter almost took me yard," Gladfelter said.
Eastern's leadoff hitter, Bobby Hedrick, smashed a double off the fence in right field following Dalton Renn's leadoff single. Renn scored the Golden Knights' first run on a ground ball, and when there was an error on the play, Hedrick ended up scoring the tying run.
Renn collected two hits for the Knights. Eastern's starting pitcher, Colby Shimmel, struck out eight and walked only one. Shimmel is one of six underclassmen who started for the Knights on Tuesday.
Kinneman recorded six strikeouts and four walks, and Gladfelter struck out four and didn't walk any.
Kinneman, who is headed to North Carolina State to play NCAA Division I college baseball, has been a regular for the Bulldogs since his freshman year.
"It's incredible, and I'm blessed to play at a really great school for a great coaching staff," he said. "We've had a great core of guys all the way up through, and we've had guys come and fill in. I'm grateful to be part of this awesome baseball program."
— Reach Dick Van'Olinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.