Young Spring Grove team advances to District 3-AAA baseball semifinals
DILLSBURG — While other successful, senior-laden teams have seen their seasons end this week, one precocious young bunch continues to play like it belongs.
Along the way, a simple question has become a rallying cry for York-Adams Division I champion Spring Grove.
Despite fielding a roster with just one senior and a handful of juniors, the boys from Papertown are creating more and more believers with each passing day.
And they're doing it sparked by one short question they ask themselves before every game: "Why not us?"
Indeed, why not the Rockets?
After falling behind early in their first-round District 3-AAA contest with Bishop McDevitt, the Spring Grove boys rallied for victory.
While the script was a little different Thursday in a quarterfinal clash with Greencastle-Antrim at Northern York High School, the result was the same.
A two-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning evened the score at 2-2 before freshman Trent Baker blooped in the game-winning single to score Austin Piety, sending Spring Grove to a 3-2 triumph.
The victory not only secures the Rockets a spot in next Tuesday's semifinals, it also locks up a PIAA state berth for just the second time in program history. In Tuesday's semifinals, Spring Grove will face Twin Valley, a 7-1 winner over Middletown in Thursday's quarterfinals. No. 8 seed Twin Valley is 17-6.
"Back when we were 3-3 I said to the team 'why not us?'" Rocket coach Kevin Stiffler said. "And they kind of just started to get more confident. You never know. You just never know. Baseball is a funny game."
Late comeback: For much of the game it looked like the fairy-tale season was coming to a close for No. 4 seed Spring Grove (17-6). Despite a fine performance by Matt Brooks on the mound, the 12th-seeded Blue Devils (12-9) were able to plate single runs in the first and fourth innings.
The Rocket bats, meanwhile, were pretty quiet against Greencastle starter Matt Kline, who surrendered just two hits over the first five innings while striking out seven.
The lack of early success may have frustrated other teams, but not Spring Grove.
"I think we've been through this a lot," said Brooks, who allowed one earned run and four hits while fanning six in the victory. "Against Bishop McDevitt we were down 2-0 and came back. Coach is always talking about not getting too high or getting too low, even when you're down by a lot. And I think we've really got a lot of practice with that throughout the year."
Almost on queue, the Spring Grove bats finally showed some life in the sixth. Back-to-back singles by Caleb Ruth and Brooks were enough to force Kline out of the game. Shortstop Drew Measell, Greencastle's top pitcher with an 8-1 record, relieved Ruth in a position swap.
The move should have paid off. Measell induced a grounder to short off the bat of catcher Derek Hoiles. Kline stepped on the bag at second for the second out, but threw wildly to first, allowing a run to score while Hoiles moved to second.
Jonathan Sager followed with a single up the middle, which scored courtesy runner Connor Reed to make it 2-2.
Brooks gets win: Brooks, who walked two and was victimized by an error in the first inning, struck out the side in a dominating seventh.
"Matt Brooks threw a very nice ballgame," Stiffler said. "He really only threw one bad pitch all game. I thought he threw outstanding. I'd love to know what he was throwing there in those last two innings because I felt like he was getting stronger."
Quin Ambeault collected half of the Blue Devils' four hits, while Spencer Meyers had Greencastle's only RBI on a single in the fourth.
Spring Grove is now the top seed left in the draw. Early exits by No. 1 Shippensburg, No. 2 West Perry and No. 3 West York have paved the way for Stiffler's team to become newly minted as favorites.
That fact may have some fans asking if the Rockets can win it all. While that's a valid question, perhaps the more important one will be the one that Stiffler and company ask themselves on Tuesday.
Why not us?
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.