A team shows it's true character in how it deals with adversity. If that is truly the case, then Spring Grove head baseball coach Eric Zeigler can rest easy.
Despite falling to West York, 3-1, Tuesday in the YAIAA championship game, Zeigler has seen how his team handles adversity plenty over the past two weeks.
The win gives the Bulldogs their second league title in as many years.
The Rockets needed to win three games in a row just to make it to the county playoffs. They beat Dallastown, South Western and Red Lion to get in, and then defeated Littlestown on Monday to reach the title game.
Spring Grove received a strong pitching performance from Nick Spangler but he was bested by West York's Joey Prego who threw a complete game seven-hitter.
"Credit Nick," Zeigler said. "He threw a great ball game. You have to credit the Prego kid. He and Nick were matching each other for quite some time and we weren't up there striking out, we were putting the ball in play."
The Rockets had several opportunities all game long to put runs on the board but were never able to find the clutch hit when they needed it, finishing the game with eight runners left on base.
"I felt like we got underneath the ball too much," Zeigler said. "We had the guys in scoring position. Unfortunately, we just couldn't come up with that big hit and they did when they had that window of opportunity. West York capitalized and we didn't. I can't be more proud of the effort my kids gave today."
On the road to get to the title game, Zeigler has seen his pitching staff step up with one strong pitching performance after another and Tuesday was no different as the Rockets received a gutty performance from Spangler, who finished the game with seven strikeouts and only one walk.
"His effort on the mound today was phenomenal and our defense was outstanding," Zeigler said.
Spangler held the Bulldogs to four hits, but ran into a rough patch in the top of the second when West York had a leadoff single from Logan Stover. Stover then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cole Bixler. The Bulldogs' Carson Fries then lined a double down the left field line that scored Stover to give West York the lead. Three batters later, with runners on second and third and two outs, Chase James drove a single opposite field to drive in two runs and give Prego all the run support he would need.
"Nick Spangler is a really good pitcher," James said. "We played together for a really long time. We know each others strengths. He was pitching me outside so I decided I would go (opposite field) and try to put on over the second baseman's head. Luckily he gave me a pitch outside that I could do that to. It is pretty awesome to do it against a guy I know so well. It was awesome to do it on the big stage."
Prego, who had watched so many of his former teammates excel in the "big game", finally got his shot and he delivered.
"I have been waiting to take the ball in the big game for a long time now and I am glad I finally go the opportunity," he said. "This was just what I wanted to do with it. Spring Grove is a bunch of great hitters. If you leave the ball up in the zone, they will crush it. I have a strong defense, Brandon Wetzel, Andrew Copeland, and Carson all made great plays. They are a great defense to have behind you."
For the Rockets, they now have the District 3 tournament to get ready for and Zeigler has no doubt that his team will be prepared.
"We told the guys after the game that we have to get back to work this week, continue to get better and stay hungry," Zeigler said. "This hurts right now, but our kids are going to persevere. They have been through a lot and I know they are going to come out on top come Monday, I really do."
He knows because he is with his team every day, he sees their character and determination. Zeigler has coached in the Spring Grove baseball program for 15 years, he knows what it takes and according to him, this team has "it".
"This is no doubt the toughest group of kids I have ever had," he said. "This is outstanding group and I have coached a lot of kids. Up and down this team, the kids are phenomenal. As a coach, this team is a coaches dream. They come every single day and battler their tales off. I cannot ask for anymore. Speaking for their character, they are top notch kids on and off the field. Tonight hurts, but it helps prepare us for districts."
WEST YORK 3, SPRING GROVE 1
West York 030 000 0 -- 3 4 2
Spring Grove 000 100 0 -- 1 7 0
West York, Joe Prego and Cole Bixler; Spring Grove, Nick Spangler and Jon Gross. SO-BB -- WY, Prego 0-2; SG, Spangler 7-1. W -- Prego. L -- Spangler. 2B --WY, Carson Fries.