STATE COLLEGE - Doubt the Bulldogs at your own risk. Especially the West York kind.
Told there was no way they could repeat as PIAA Class AAA baseball champions, the West York Bulldogs took their legion of fans on a ride no one is soon to forget.
Tell them they are unable to accomplish a goal and these Bulldogs will prove they can.
Just ask senior captain Brandon Rauhauser, who was a huge part of both state-champion teams.
"It's the ultimate motivator. Tell somebody they can't do it, they are going to try 30 times harder to get it done," he said. "That is what we were facing all year long."
It is a special group. Consider that going to back to last season, West York has now won 10 straight games in which a loss would end the season short of the goal. It's a streak consisting of two District 3 third-place games just to reach states and the four-game title runs.
And how else can you explain the Bulldogs winning three straight PIAA tournament games this season in their last at-bat?
Even if West York didn't need that kind of drama in its 2-1 championship win over Upper Moreland, it still had to fight the whole game.
Coach Roger Czerwinski said the team's buzzword is "moxie," which it embraces even to the point of putting on the back of this year's warm-up shirts.
"One of the things in our program that we instill is that pride, integrity and hard work. That tenacity or again the moxie is on the back of our shirt. And these kids have it," he said.
"I honestly cannot stand here and say we had the most talented team in the tournament. However, I wouldn't trade these 18 young men for any team."
Perhaps no one exemplifies that mentality more than the diminutive Rauhauser, affectionately known as "Mini" by his teammates and friends.
Don't tell Mini he can't be a two-time state champ and he is far from the only West York player with that attitude.
As catcher Cole Bixler carried his gear off the field one last time this season, he called the team battlers.
"We've been battling all year," Bixler said. "We had a rough start and once we were issued a challenge after our Spring Grove loss, we just wanted to do everything we could to come back here."
Yet, the most intriguing thing is how different this year's run was compared to 2012.
Last season, the Bulldogs rode a horse in ace pitcher Kaden Hepler. This year's group couldn't be more proud of what they accomplished with Hepler, Jerrin Toomey, Brock Gladfelter and Jesse Bortner. But they wanted to prove they could do it again.
"They are both very special," Friday's winning pitcher Brandon Kinneman said. "Last year was easy, we scored 10 runs a game and Kaden came out and shut guys down.
"This year it was a lot tougher. We had a huge target on our back and to withstand that early punch at the beginning of the year. It's special, but it's very different."
It also served as another motivation factor for the Bulldogs, who became the first team to repeat as PIAA champions since Moon did it in 2001 and 2002.
"(It feels) 10 times better than last year, if that is even possible," Rauhauser said. "We all worked so hard. Not to take away from the five seniors last year, but we were sick and tired of hearing we can't do it again."
Of course, the four PIAA tournament games couldn't have been much different from last season either. In 2012, West York smashed the ball almost at will, including during a 9-6 state championship win over Lampeter-Strasburg.
This year's team was more refined and had to manufacture runs as Rauhauser did with his squeeze bunt in the second inning that plated the eventual winning run.
"When you are 9-7 and you finish as state champion at 21-8 it is (surprising)," the coach said. "I would be lying if I stood here and said I am not a little shocked. I believe the fight they had in them is what made the difference this year and certainly today."
I guess that's what happens when you are Bulldogs.
Steve Navaroli covers prep sports for the Daily Record/Sunday News and GameTimePA. Reach him at 771-2060; firstname.lastname@example.org; @stevenavaroli.
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