MOUNT WOLF -- It's been a long time since Manchester could call themselves Central League regular-season champions.

Thirty-one years, to be exact.

To put that in perspective, most of the players on the current Indians' roster weren't even born yet.

No one, however, was more ready to win a regular-season title than Manchester manager Dave Miller. Miller, who played on that 1982 title squad, celebrated with his team on Monday evening before taking a ceremonial water-cooler dousing in front of his team's dugout.

His team earned the crown with a 5-2 victory over Jefferson at Rock Brenner Field on Monday in a special one-game playoff. The win also earned his club a berth against Susquehanna League champion Hallam in the York County Championship Series later this month. Manchester also grabbed a berth in the Colonial York Tournament over Labor Day weekend.

Manchester starter Jason Kelly scattered seven hits while striking out eight batters to earn a complete-game win over Jefferson on Monday. The Indians had
Manchester starter Jason Kelly scattered seven hits while striking out eight batters to earn a complete-game win over Jefferson on Monday. The Indians had not won a Central League regular-season title since the 1982 season. (Photo courtesy of Malerie Kelly)

"It's a long time coming," Miller said. "And these guys have been here a long time. A lot of these guys have been here since they were 16, 17 years old and they're 27, 28. They've been here 10 years and we've been trying to get to this point and we finally got to where we needed to be."

Manchester catcher Nick Shuman was the first to begin the on-field celebration when the final out of the contest was caught in shortstop Tom Miller's glove. As soon as the ball was hit, Shuman threw off his mask and threw his glove in the air while making a dash for the pitcher's mound.

"I feel amazing for Dave," said Shuman, who hit an RBI single that turned into a three-run play because of a Jefferson throwing error. That was part of a four-run, fifth-inning rally. "He's my uncle and he's wanted this for quite some time."

The Titans, who rallied on the last day of the regular season to forge a two-way tie with the Indians atop the league standings at 21-14, appeared to be in control early. Starter Brian Bossom allowed just one run over three innings.

Jefferson manager Steve Gentile, however, pulled the right-hander in favor of hard-throwing lefty Jon Kibler. Kibler worked a quick 1-2-3 fourth before the Indians went to work in the fifth, trailing 2-1.

A leadoff double by Chris Langley started the rally, although he appeared to have cost his team with a base-running blunder. Trey McWilliams hit a grounder to second, a ball that should have moved Langley to third. The Manchester left-fielder, however, hesitated as the ball was fielded and was forced to stay at second as the first out was recorded.

After a walk and a fielder's choice grounder, the Indians had the tying run on third with two outs. Langley's miscue was erased a few pitches later when Kibler uncorked a wild pitch that brought Langley home to tie the score at 2-2.

A fielding error allowed a hustling Logan Allison to reach base and keep the inning alive for Shuman, who came up with perhaps the biggest hit of his career. The Northeastern High School graduate shot a bleeder down the right-field line that bounced just in fair territory to bring home Tom Miller and Allison.

The relay throw to try to get Allison at home plate, however, sailed wildly. The ball skipped under the fence and out of play, which allowed Shuman, who had just rounded second base, to be awarded home plate to make it 5-2.

"Nothing like a Little League home run," Shuman joked. "That was a clutch situation. It was off the end of the bat and I'm thinking 'that's just going to fall in.' Then it had a little English on it and gave it a little kick and that was all there was to it."

That proved to be all that Manchester starter Jason Kelly would need. The right-hander scattered seven hits while striking out eight to earn the complete-game win.

"That's typical Jason," Shuman said. "What can you say? His breaking stuff was amazing tonight and we wanted to keep them off balance. They were swinging away so there weren't too many strikeouts with strikes. We got a couple in the dirt that had them swinging."

Getting his team's ace the lead late in the game took some of the pressure off both parts of the battery in the final two innings.

"(The extra runs) make it easy to call pitches," said Shuman said, who is in his ninth season with the club. "With a three-run lead we could dial up fastballs more often than not."

While Gentile was disappointed that his team couldn't pull off perhaps its greatest late-season ending with a victory, he wasn't about to second-guess his decision to pull Bossom.

"That was our plan," Gentile said. "We wanted him to get through the lineup one time and see if we could throw in a different guy, a left-hander that throws a little harder and try to change things up on the pitcher's mound. Brian threw well, but Jon's a really good pitcher, too."

Had Shuman's bloop landed just five more feet to the right, perhaps the outcome would have been different. Gentile, though, accepted it for what it was and will move on with his team as it attempts to win the league playoff title as the No. 2 seed.

"That's how it is," he said. "We can't look back on it now. We've got to move on to the next game."

Manchester's Andy Clemens drove in the first run of the night with a solo homer in the second inning. The Titans took the lead in the third when Colin Porter and Scott Trail drilled back-to-back RBI singles.

Andrew Hershey led Jefferson with two hits, while Langley was the only Manchester player to collect two base hits.

Both Jefferson and Manchester had already secured first-round byes in the upcoming six-team playoffs by finishing tied atop the standings after 35 games. They will await the winners of the two first-round series next week.

Both best-of-3 first-round series were announced Monday. Stoverstown, the No. 3 seed, will play host to No. 6 seed Dover on Tuesday, while No. 4 seed Glen Rock will play host to No. 5 seed Mount Wolf.

-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis