Locals earn berth in Mid-Atlantic Regionals at Widener University
By Dennis Weller
BOYERTOWN - The Spring-Ford Senior Babe Ruth team had the usual summer distractions this season, with players missing games due to graduations, vacations, senior week, and assorted other reasons. Add in the high school team's long run into the playoffs that culminated in a PIAA runner-up finish, and it was a long time until the Pirates had their whole team together.
But once that happened, Spring-Ford rolled all the way to another state title game and came out on top this time around with a 19-1 win over Bucks County Sunday afternoon at Boyertown High School.
The Pirates (23-7) pounded 19 hits, four each by Jon Hayes and Matt Nelson, and Nelson threw a two-hitter in a game halted after five innings by the 10-run rule. Spring-Ford - which went 3-0 and outscored its opponents by a combined 39-1 margin in the tournament - will open play in the Middle Atlantic Regional on July 24.
"I told the kids it's a special team if they stick it out and stay together," said Spring-Ford manager Ed Harrington. "They can accomplish something, and they did. It's a great group of kids. They play together. They're all committed."
"I knew we could do it the whole year," said Nelson, who allowed two singles and no walks and struck out one. "It was a matter of if we came together, and we did come together.
"We had five players from the runner-up team. It's just a matter of us jelling. We hiccupped a little bit in the league playoffs. Once we got here, we jelled together. Hopefully, we can go far in regionals."
The Pirates scored three in the top of the first on a leadoff single by Hayes, a sacrifice by Casey Long, a double to right-center by Nelson, a two-out walk to Chase Cromley, and a two-run double to deep left-center by Mike Haslam.
"You set the tempo," said leadoff man Hayes. "Somebody gets on, and it's like a snowball."
The Pirates broke the game open with nine runs in the third on seven hits, including triples by Trevor Sasek and Nelson. Then Hayes and Nelson doubled, and James Trojan put down a key bunt hit during a three-run fourth and the Pirates added four in the fifth on just one hit - a triple by pinch hitter Marc Costello.
"We definitely hit well today, no problem at all," said Nelson, who knocked in five and scored four. "No pressure on the defense or me pitching."
"We did break out the bats," said Harrington. "We played good defense. The pitching was great. That was pretty much a nice complete baseball game. We tell them to come out confident, not over-confident, and play ball. You can't beat the pitching. Matty pitched a heck of a game."
Hayes and Nelson thought that the high school team's long post-season run helped the Babe Ruth squad.
"We got a second shot from last month," said Hayes. "It gave me a lot of confidence. It just rolled over from playoffs to playoffs. Coming from the PIAA playoffs, that did give me a lot of confidence, especially."
"It was a lot of help," said Nelson. "Four of our outfielders played varsity baseball."
The players also gave a lot of credit for the title to Harrington.
"He's a really good manager," said Hayes. "He lets us have fun and lets us play the game the way it's supposed to be played. We just have a good group of guys who like to play baseball and have fun."
"A lot of thanks to coach Harrington, too," said Nelson. "He really helped us this year. We're just having fun. That's why I love this team so much."
Next for the Pirates will be a trip to Widener University for an opening round contest against Delaware at 12 noon a week from Thursday. The winner of that 10-team, double-elimination tournament moves on to the Babe Ruth World Series in Newark, Ohio.
"Hopefully, we fare well there and maybe go to nationals, also," said Nelson. "That would be a nice summer."
"I think we've got enough talent to make something happen at the next level," said Hayes.