UPDATE: Spring Grove's state baseball playoff opener now set for Wednesday
PINE GROVE — Spring Grove and Pottsville will try again on Wednesday to play their Class AAA state baseball playoff game.
The opening-round matchup between the Rockets and the Crimson Tide was rained out on Monday after both teams and their fans traveled to the game site in Pine Grove. The game was originally rescheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday. However, continued rains and suspect field conditions forced another postponement. The game is now set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in Pine Grove..
"It started raining like 3:20 about halfway through BP (batting practice)," Spring Grove head coach Kevin Stiffler said Monday afternoon as a steady rain pelted the field at Walter Stump Stadium. "And then (after the rain started), it was consistent, and it's been like this ever since."
Stiffler and the Rockets rode their coach bus home in the rain, and they'll board the bus again on Wednesday to repeat the 75-mile trip to the Schuylkill County town.
"It's a little disappointing (that the game couldn't be played on Monday), but I think it's a good decision (to postpone)," Stiffler said. "They (game officials) thought maybe there was like a 20-minute window (without rain), but more rain was coming."
Stiffler felt it was better to come back another day than to try and play and possibly end up with a suspended game.
"I want to get seven innings in," he said.
Spring Grove is making its first appearance in the state playoffs following an unforgettable run through the District 3 bracket. The Rockets, with just one senior on the their roster, defeated Bishop McDevitt, Greencastle and Twin Valley to reach the title game, where they lost to Donegal, 11-5, in eight innings.
Spring Grove will seek to continue its magical season by winning at least one state playoff game. To accomplish its goal, the York-Adams Division I winner will have to take out the District 11 champion. Pottsville is a formidable opponent with three players who have committed to NCAA Division I colleges.
Connor Hinchliffe will attend LaSalle, Eli Nabholz will enroll at Penn State and Travis Blankenhorn will continue his career at Kentucky. Hinchliffe is a catcher for the Crimson Tide, Nabholz is a pitcher and Blankenhorn is an infielder (shortstop, third baseman). Nabholz's uncle, Chris, won 37 games while pitching in the major leagues during the 1990s for the Montreal Expos, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.
Whether it's Nabholz, or another Crimson Tide pitcher on the mound, Stiffler knows his hitters will have a challenge.
"At this level, you're going to face good pitching no matter who you face," he said.
Speaking of good pitching, Spring Grove will call on Matt Brooks.
The junior right-hander is having an outstanding season, having added three District 3 victories to an excellent regular-season resume. Due to PIAA pitching rules, Brooks was not eligible to pitch in the District 3 title game, but the right-hander will be ready for states.
Whenever the Rockets play their first game.
— Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.