STATE COLLEGE —
Bishop McCort was the epitome of poise under pressure Friday in the team’s PIAA Class A championship game victory over District 4 champion Montgomery, 14-2 in five innings.
The Crushers grabbed the momentum from the outset, sending 12 batters to the plate in the first inning while pounding out six hits with three Red Raiders errors to take an imposing 8-0 lead, and never looked back.
“Our guys have been able to do that all year,” McCort coach Chris Pfeil said. “We put a lot of pressure on teams. If you make a mistake, we make you pay for it. I think once got the ball rolling and started hitting balls into the gap, we were pouring it on.”
Montgomery coach Tom Persing didn’t think his team was nervous or intimidated by the atmosphere or the Crushers’ reputation as an aggressive, base-stealing offensive team.
“I didn’t sense that our kids had the jitters at the beginning,” Persing said. “They were taking it all in and the last thing I said was to enjoy the moment but not to let the moment take away from what they were supposed to do. I don’t think it was the atmosphere. It was one bad hop here and one missed play, and it snowballed.”
Persing said after the top of the first he reminded his kids that they still hadn’t batted. McCort’s first eight runs were unearned.
“We hadn’t even gotten to bat yet,” Persing said. “We started off with two doubles and put the ball in play, scoring two runs, but I think then they just got a little tight and couldn’t come back.”
The Red Raiders (21-3) scored the two runs against McCort senior ace Jesse Cooper in the bottom of the first, but the right-hander didn’t allow another run.
“The eight runs in the first helped me keep my composure on the mound even when they got those two runs,” said Cooper, who finished the season 11-1. “It helped me throw strikes, keep within myself and hit my spots.”
Well staffed: McCort coach Chris Pfeil benefited from a deep and experienced coaching staff.
Pfeil’s assistants include former standout player Josh Day, who built a regional Pony League power in the B. Hale Boilers; Pat Hollern, who possesses multiple district basketball championships at McCort; and John Bradley, who has been part of four McCort state championship-winning hockey teams and one state runner-up.
“I’m very lucky to have the guys on the staff that I have,” Pfeil said. “They’re all proven winners who’ve won in everything they’ve done. That’s one of the biggest things they bring to the table. We set our goals high.
“Coach Day advanced to the Pony League World Series five times and he’s one of the best baseball people I’ve been around. Coach Hollern has won five district championships as a varsity basketball coach, and Coach Bradley was part of McCort's state hockey championship run. Those guys know how to win.”
Record-breaking: This Crimson Crushers squad has played havoc with the school record books, setting multiple milestones and coming close to several others.
The old record for wins was 20, team batting average was .358, and runs scored is 220. Individually, Christian Leech eclipsed the mark for hits (34) and runs (33). Prior to Friday’s game, Leech had 36 hits and 37 runs. Jesse Cooper has 33 hits and 33 runs and also the school record for wins with 10, topping the old record by two.
Leechless at Lantzy: Left fielder Christian Leech sacrificed playing in Friday’s 42nd annual Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star football game to stay with his Crimson Crushers teammates in the PIAA Class A title game.
Leech was listed as a safety on the South roster.
“There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision,” Leech said about playing in the championship after the team’s 14-2, five-inning win over Montgomery. “I played four years of baseball, football and basketball and just to get one state championship under our belt is unbelievable.”
Leech said he hoped he might get back to Johnstown in time to support his Rebel teammates.
A steal: McCort baserunners stole five bases on Friday, increasing their single-season record to 131 stolen bases on 147 attempts.
Blue shirts: The umpires for the Class A title game were from District 5 and included Joseph Thompson at home plate, Donald Holsopple at first, Doug Hengst at second and Dennis Clark at third.