It takes a special team to make a run deep into the PIAA playoffs.
Talent will only get you so far. It goes way beyond just that.
It takes cohesiveness, a willingness for a number of players to come together as one.
It takes a bond formed throughout the grind of the season that will ultimately culminate into holding up that oh-so coveted trophy.
Boyertown’s spring baseball team is living proof.
Nine months after the Bears won the PIAA Class AAA Championship, 4-1, against Plum last June, Boyertown is in position again.
The Boyertown girls basketball team will take on North Allegheny on Friday night at 6 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey for the PIAA Class 6A title.
Something about these Pittsburgh suburb schools.
Last spring, the baseball team beat Plum, located just a short car ride outside of Pittsburgh. Friday night, the girls basketball team will be up against North Allegheny, hailing from just over 20 minutes outside of the Steel City.
Survive & Advance
Both the baseball team and the girls basketball team stand as proof that a district crown isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
With a PIAA appearance secured last spring, the baseball team lost in the District One Class AAAA semifinals, then lost in the playback round to limp into the state playoffs as the district’s final seed. It was the first time all season they’d lost consecutive games.
From there, though, they were rolling. The Bears ran through District 12 champ Olney Valley Charter with a three-inning, 18-0 rout in the opening round for their first state playoff win since 1995. They then beat Wyoming Valley West and Cumberland Valley on their way to their state final berth.
As for the girls, once they had a PIAA Class 6A berth secured, Boyertown fell in the district’s quarterfinal round, then won one of two during the 5th-8th place playback round.
That seemed to energize the Bears, though, who knocked off three-time defending state champion Cumberland Valley in the opening round, then secured close wins against Garnet Valley, Northampton and Cardinal O’Hara to earn a berth in the state final.
It Takes A Village
It would be easy to point the finger at the standouts.
Starting pitchers Pat Hohlfeld and Andrew Bauer were virtually untouchable during the baseball team’s state playoff run.
Abby Kapp is averaging almost 19 points per game at states and has come up clutch in the late stages two games in a row for the girls basketball team.
Not to be forgotten are the key ingredients rounding out the Bears’ lineup:
The Game-Changer >> Through their state run, Michael Raineri’s stats never jumped out of the scorebook.
He did, however, come up with one of the biggest plays on the season.
Half an inning after he committed an error and was eaten up by a hard grounder during the state semifinal round, the shortstop executed a squeeze bunt with the bases loaded to break open a scoreless tie that the Bears eventually went on to win 3-1.
That moment can be compared with Tori Boalton’s game-saving play against Northampton in the quarterfinal round.
Moments after Kapp hit a huge 3-pointer to give the Bears a late lead, Boalton blocked what looked to be the game-winning layup by a Northampton player to save the season with just 10 seconds remaining.
The X-Factor >> Mitch Peers saved his best for last on his sophomore season. The designated hitter batted .417 for the state playoffs, notching seven RBIs on a pair of doubles and a triple.
The same can be said about Katie Armstrong.
The senior guard was slowed throughout districts, but has caught fire again during the state playoffs. She is averaging over 11 points per game during the Bears’ state run, including a team-high 18 against Northampton.
Strong, Silent Type >> First baseman Ben Longacre let his game do most of the talking. His RBI single in the first inning of the state championship kick-started the Bears on their way to the win. He was also a rock defensively.
The same can be said about Kylie Webb.
Though her game is not always flashy, Webb has been solid both offensively and defensively for the Bears all season. She knocked down three huge 3-pointers for the Bears on their way to a win over Northampton.
The Facilitator >> Then there was catcher Ryan Weller, who behind the plate called the pitches and set the table for the success of Hohlfeld and Bauer.
The same can be said of Alli Marcus, the Bears’ scrappy point guard who has shown off some shooting range at states. The offense runs through Marcus’ hands, especially when teams go all-out to defend Kapp. Time and time again this season, she’s shown the ability to set up scoring chances, not only for herself but for her teammates as well.
Next Man Up >> With Hohlfeld and Bauer dealing, the calls to the Boyertown bullpen were few and far between during their state playoff run. However, when needed, the Bears answered as Grant Fronheiser and Nate Kline combined for zero runs allowed in four innings of work through states.
The same can be said about freshman Avery Sweisfort, the Bears’ first off the bench. Not much for scoring — she’s got just one point during the state playoff run — Sweisfort is a fresh set of legs that has kept Boyertown up on the defensive end.
Team Before Me
Last spring, the Boyertown baseball team used to drive announcers bonkers during the pregame introductions.
Traditionally, as the starting lineups are announced, each player would one-by-one take his place alongside the team’s respective basepath. Not Boyertown, though.
The Bears would wait until the entire team was read off, then take the field together as a team.
“They do everything together,” said Boyertown head coach Todd Moyer last spring. “Every time we go somewhere, we get in trouble because they want to announce each kid individually.
“We don’t do that here. Either we go together or we don’t go.”
Similarly, the Boyertown girls team boasts a similar team-first mentality.
Though their lineup generally features hardly more than a six, sometimes seven-man rotation, every player on the roster brings something to the table. The reserves have helped create a culture on the sideline.
They’ve stayed engaged in every dribble all season.
“There are so many unsung heroes on this team,” said Boyertown head coach Jason Bieber after Monday’s semifinal win over Cardinal O’Hara. “They all do something for us and lift each other up.”