PLYMOUTH TWP. >> To be the best, you have to beat the best.
Fourteenth-seeded Central Bucks West defined that adage in the District 1-6A playoffs.
After beating No. 19 Downingtown West in the first round of districts, the Bucks beat No. 3 Methacton in the second round, No. 6 Coatesville in the quarterfinals and No. 2 North Penn in the semifinals.
Waiting in the championship was No. 1 Spring-Ford and CB West beat them, too — 4-0 Thursday afternoon at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth — to win the program’s first District 1 championship.
“It’s awesome,” senior Max McGlone said of knocking off the top-ranked teams. “It feels great, especially being an underdog in the Philly area… I don’t think anybody cared (about the seeding). We treat it like every day. We just go out and play. We know we’re playing a great team every day. We just do what we can, control what we can control and just win ballgames.”
“It’s been a fun ride,” senior Kevin Bukowski said. “When the playoffs start, the seeds don’t matter anymore. It’s just 1-v-1. We can go out there and compete with anybody. We’re always confident.”
This run has been a few years in the making. Fifth-year head coach Brian Weaver credited 2021 graduates Andrew Kohl and Mike Bukowski and 2022 graduates Aiden Quinn, Cole Fehrman and Connor Dobos, who led the Bucks to the district playoffs last season for the first time in a decade, for helping prepare the seniors for this moment.
“A lot of it starts with the seniors,” Weaver said, “and it’s contagious. The seniors — when they came in as freshmen — very much had an attitude of not arrogance, but confidence. They were confident that they had talent and as they’ve grown and matured, they’ve ended up being tireless workers and that catches on with the younger guys. We were very lucky the seniors that graduated two years ago raised the standard…. the guys last year…. they set an expectation that we can claw our way in. This year I think there may have been a feeling that last year was a flash in the pan.”
That wasn’t the feeling for the seniors. After 2022’s season ended in the second round of districts with a 5-1 loss to West Chester Henderson, McGlone was the last player in the dugout and told Weaver that they’d be going to states next year. After a 7-6 win over Downingtown West, a 10-0 win over Methacton and a 6-1 win over Coatesville, McGlone’s promise was fulfilled and they clinched their spot in the PIAA-6A tournament.
“It was just private, me and him,” Weaver recalled, “but that’s the attitude that the seniors embodied and the younger guys – they weren’t here for those really down years. They now have that expectation that this is a program that competes. They buy in to that. It’s all the seniors at the end of the day.”
The Bucks (19-6) got contributions up and down the lineup to get into the state playoffs.
In the win over Downingtown West, Will Hogenauer went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and Bill Zentmayer ended the game with a walk-off base hit.
Alex Valdes went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs against Methacton. McGlone was 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Freshman Jacob Greer delivered on the mound and at the plate against Coatesville. He threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing five hits while striking out five batters to two walks. He helped himself with two RBIs on a sacrifice fly and a single.
Once states were clinched, it was about getting to and winning the program’s first district title.
To get there, CB West rolled a North Penn team that beat them twice in the regular season,14-1. Everyone in the lineup contributed, highlighted by Bukowski going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and two runs scored and Valdes going 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
In the district title game against Spring-Ford, the Bucks used small ball. Zentmayer and Matt Carr helped score the first two runs with sacrifice bunts — setting up a McGlone RBI single and a Jack Hogenauer sacrifice fly. Sam Greer knocked in the third run with a double and McGlone made it 4-0 with another RBI single.
“The first three innings, four innings against Downingtown West weren’t sharp,” Weaver said, “but since then, it’s very much been a lot of momentum and they’ve done the same recipe each game – get great pitching, timely hitting almost every inning and we had another solid game in the field.”
West played the first three games last week before the semifinals and championship this week. Weaver thinks the every-other-day schedule with a long break before a familiar opponent in North Penn helped his team stay on track.
“It’s the beauty of the district playoffs,” Weaver said. “You never really have enough time to breath and consider the situation you’re in. All we can say each time is, ‘Hey guys the coaching staff is going to have a scouting report ready and we’re going to execute it on the mound. Just keep doing your thing, keep playing your game at the plate and give us a chance to win.’ So I don’t think the seed has really affected our guys too much. When you get to the last eight, the last four – everyone is a great team.”
The historic season continues in the playoffs next week when the Bucks face District 3 runner-up Wilson.