Spring Grove baseball earns its first district championship game appearance
HERSHEY>> The team that no one expected to qualify for districts will now have a chance to win the school's first district championship.
Several players from last year's YAIAA-champion Spring Grove team watched from the bleachers at Hershey High School as their former teammate, Matt Brooks, the lone returning starter from last year's team, threw a complete game in a 4-2 win against Twin Valley in the District 3 AAA semifinals.
With such a young team — one senior and two juniors — and so little experience — Brooks was the only one with consistent varsity playing time before this year — expectations were low coming into the season for Spring Grove. But Tuesday's win advances the Rockets to a level no other baseball team in school history has reached before: a district title game, which they will play on Thursday at a location to be determined.
To get there, Brooks struck out 11 batters and walked two to limit Twin Valley to two runs on seven hits.
"There's definitely some good hitters in that lineup, but once I got my curveball down, I had a lot of them swinging through stuff and felt like I could strike a lot of them out with that pitch," Brooks said.
The junior has now thrown 18 of the 21 innings Spring Grove has played so far in the district playoffs, with wins in all three games.
"He just throws a gem every single game he's out there, he throws his heart out," junior third baseman Caleb Ruth said of Brooks. "He's just been great, I love playing with him."
Brooks also helped himself out by getting the scoring started in the first inning. The Rockets fell behind early in both of their first two district playoff games, but took an early lead in this one when Trent Baker led off with a walk and scored from second base when Raiders third baseman Casey Fitzsimmons made an errant throw on a grounder hit by Brooks.
Brooks later advanced to third base on a wild pitch and scored on a Derek Hoiles groundout, giving Spring Grove a 2-0 lead after one inning without registering a hit.
"That was big," Spring Grove coach Kevin Stiffler said. "Just putting balls in play, putting pressure on them. I thought Derek Hoiles had a nice at-bat to get us a run there in the first. We preach that, with less than two outs, put it in play."
All four of the Rockets' runs came with two outs, as Ruth punched a bloop single to right field to drive in a run in the second inning and Buzz Schuchart drilled a line drive single to drive in a run in the third.
Spring Grove, seeded No. 4 in the district, will face No. 7-seed Donegal for the district championship at 7 p.m. Thursday at Santander Stadium. The Indians beat No. 6 Manheim Central, 8-2, in their semifinal.
"Hopefully it's a night game, we can play under the lights out there and have some fun and just play our game," Brooks said.
Spring Grove 4, Twin Valley 2
Twin Valley0100100—273Spring Grove211000-—480
TV, A.J. Alexy and Mark Keys. SG, Matt Brooks and Derek Hoiles.
SO-BB — Alexy 5-1, Brooks 11-2; W — Brooks; L — Alexy; 2B — TV, Colin Hortey, Colby Hicklemen, Casey Fitzsimmons