South Western made sure its biggest rival wouldn't win a division title on the Mustangs' home field.
Spring Grove entered Wednesday's game needing just one win to wrap up the YAIAA Division I baseball crown, but it was the Mustangs who celebrated a dramatic 2-1 victory.
South Western senior Kyle Raubenstine, who pitched a complete game and struck out 10 batters, scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning. He took off from third base as Luke Small laid down a bunt, then slid safely into home plate before Spring Grove first baseman Austin Piety could toss the ball to catcher Derek Hoiles. Raubenstine pumped his fist as he popped up from his slide, and was quickly greeted by his teammates.
"Going out with that play right there, at home, last time ever playing Spring Grove in high school, it's definitely a memorable way to go out," Raubenstine said.
The Rockets can still win the division with a win against Central York on Friday or against Red Lion on Monday, but they left the field dejected after losing a game in which pitcher Matt Brooks struck out 12 batters and only allowed one hit in the first six innings.
"It's like a birthday where you're expecting a birthday gift and it didn't come, so maybe you gotta wait a day," Spring Grove coach Kevin Stiffler said. "It comes the next day and everything's ok.
"I have confidence in (my team), they'll bounce back. South Western played a great ballgame."
The walk-off safety squeeze play was set up by two mishaps in the field by Spring Grove. Raubenstine started the rally by laying down a bunt that was scooped up by third baseman Caleb Ruth, who made an errant throw that allowed Raubenstine to go to second base. On the next play, Miles Francis laid down a bunt that was fielded quickly by Brooks, who made a quick throw to third base. In a bang-bang play at third, Raubenstine was called safe.
"Oh yeah, I beat it," the senior said afterwards. "I just got down and dirty and slid in there."
Francis moved to second base as distracted Spring Grove fielders debated the call, setting up a no-outs situation in which the Mustangs had runners at second and third base. That's when South Western coach Mike Resetar made the call to attempt the safety squeeze.
"My thought process going into it was, we have a runner on second, so even if (Raubenstine's) out at home we've got one out, man on third again," Resetar said. "You'd still have the game-winning run on third. It wasn't really risky, it was just a matter of execution."
Small and Raubenstine executed perfectly, giving the Mustangs their sixth win of the year and forcing the Rockets to win another game to secure the division title.
"I'm glad we held them off for a day, especially on our home field," said Resetar, who said he didn't know what was on the line for Spring Grove until after the game. "We're young, we're inexperienced, we haven't played the way I think we could've this year. We lost some games I thought we should've won. We won a game today we might not have deserved to win, but we gutted it out. That's a good win for the program, hopefully it builds a little bit of momentum going into next year."
South Western 2, Spring Grove 1
Spring Grove0001000—171South Western1000001—230
SG, Matt Brooks and Derek Hoiles. SW, Kyle Raubenstine and Evan Raubenstine.
SO-BB — Brooks 12-1, K. Raubenstine 10-2; W — K. Raubenstine; L — Brooks; 3B — SW, Matt Taylor.