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Video: Sager strikes out the side in the seventh (all looking) and Spring Grove wins 3-2 to clinch the Division I title.


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They didn't throw their mitts in the air, dogpile on the mound or make any sort of scene indicating the improbable feat they just accomplished.

Instead, the Spring Grove players and coaches high-fived each other, lined up to shake hands with their opponent and headed to the outfield. Rather than celebrate the YAIAA Division I title they had just secured with a 3-2 win against Central York, the Rockets held a brief team meeting, then jogged over to support their softball counterparts — who are clinging to a spot in districts — through the final inning of their 6-3 win against the Panthers.

Friday was a good day all-around to be a Rocket, but the Spring Grove baseball team acted like they've been there before.

And, in practicality, the program has been there before. This division title marks the third straight won by the Rockets. But this year's team is almost entirely different, with just one returning starter — Matt Brooks — from last year's squad that won the league championship.

The Rockets are made up almost entirely of sophomores, who were in middle school when the division-title streak started. Anthony Reed is the team's only senior, and Brooks and Caleb Reed are the only juniors.

Although many in the league figured 2015 would be a rebuilding year for Spring Grove, Brooks saw the promise from the start.

"I thought we were definitely capable," he said. "I thought we were gonna have to work for it pretty hard, but I knew a lot of teams lost a lot of people just like we did, so I knew we had a chance, no doubt. We just had to work for it."

It didn't happen right away — Spring Grove started the year 3-3 — but the team's sophomores helped it turn the corner.

"I think it was expected of us," sophomore Jon Sager said. "Last year we had a really good team and we've had a good program for a long time."

Sager is one of the sophomores to make the biggest impact, and he did so again in Friday's win by allowing two runs on two hits in seven innings. He retired 17 straight batters to end the game, including three strikeouts in the final inning, and also drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI-single in the fourth inning.

"At the beginning we were throwing curveballs, but third through seventh innings we were going right at them," he said of his day on the mound. "We were dancing around the strike zone too much the first two innings."

Sager was also on the mound during a particularly dispiriting 10-0 loss to Lower Dauphin back in March, the last loss before the Rockets put together a 13-2 record in April. Coach Kevin Stiffler held a long postgame meeting with his team after that game and, since then, Sager has become an integral cog in the Rockets' three-man pitching rotation (along with Reed and Brooks) and a productive hitter out of the No. 2 hole.

"We needed our sophomores to step up," Stiffler said, recalling that game. "There were a few of them that we as a coaching staff felt strongly that they were capable. Jon was one of them that I talked to out there that day, I told him, 'I'm counting on you, you need to start stepping up in all facets of the game.' And he has. I mean, tonight he carried us."

Friday's win means that Spring Grove will face West York in the YAIAA semifinals next Friday in a battle between the last two teams to win the league. The two teams met back in March, when the Bulldogs won 3-2 in nine innings.

Back then, the Rockets were just a young team trying to find their way. Now, they're the Division I champions.

"These kids work so hard," Stiffler said. "They just believed it's their time....Hopefully we can keep it going."

Spring Grove 3, Central York 2

Central York1100000—221Spring Grove020100-—370

CY, Beau Burris, Andrew Parks (5) and Joe Kroeger. SG, Jon Sager and Derek Hoiles.

SO-BB — Burris 2-5, Parks 3-0, Sager 7-2; W — Sager; L — Burris.

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