One word comes to mind when you ask Spring Grove coach Sam Becker about his York-Adams American Legion club — special.
"These boys are special," Becker said. "They know how to win and they've been doing it their whole careers."
While there's still a lot of the typical horse play that comes with any teenage boys, Becker's club is truly an all-for-one and one-for-all outfit. Every guy is pulling for his teammate in any given situation. And, if they fail, they're right there to pick them right up.
"We've been playing together since we were wee-little boys," said Spring Grove's Aaron Becker, who is also the coach's son. "We always play well together. We're more of a family than a team. We never really fight with each other. We knew exactly what each other can do."
That type of close-knit camaraderie has turned out some pretty nice results, too. Last year, the team earned a berth into the Region IV playoffs and parlayed that into a berth into the state tournament, eventually finishing third.
This year, Spring Grove was the class of the league, winning the regular-season title with a 14-1 mark. That title clinched another Region IV berth, marking the third year in a row the club has advanced to regionals.
While the Beckers and company can already plan for making the trip to Fredericksburg in Lebanon County in mid-July for the regional tournament, they aren't about to forget about the upcoming league playoff tournament. Starting Thursday, Spring Grove will headline the eight-team, double-elimination event that will send a second York-Adams club to regionals.
"We're not going to lay down for anybody," Coach Becker said. "The guys said (Tuesday) night that they want to win the playoffs, too. So we're going to go for it and see what happens."
Pitching is typically at a premium during the five-day league bracket. Becker can attest to that. A season ago, Spring Grove had to use pretty much all of its top pitchers in the playoffs to make it to the finals against Hanover.
This year figures to be a bit different, but in a good way. Becker has eight guys he has complete confidence in to take the mound against any opponent.
"I'm probably going to use my pitchers a little bit differently to get them set up for the regionals," he said. "I'm going to try to get everybody some innings over the next week, but it may change depending upon the situation."
Deep field: For Spring Grove to sweep the regular-season and playoff titles, it will have to battle a pretty deep and strong field this year. New Oxford, which finished with an 13-1-1 mark to earn the No. 2 seed, won the regular-season title a year ago before Spring Grove eliminated the Adams County team in the playoffs.
"They're a really good team," Becker said of New Oxford. "They have some really good pitching. They remind me a lot of us with their pitching, the way they can hit the ball and their defense."
Hanover, the No. 3 seed after a 12-2-1 campaign, was the only team to knock off Spring Grove this season, a 4-1 victory nearly a month ago. Combined with an 18-1 trashing of Spring Grove in last year's playoff title contest, the team made up of Hanover and Littlestown players seems to have Spring Grove's number.
"That was our only loss," Becker said of the regular-season setback on June 15. "It was supposed to be at the beginning of the year, but I had to move it because of it being Senior Week and most of the team going to the beach. So I rescheduled it for the day after they got back, which, in hindsight now was probably not a good idea, but you have to get the games in."
Pleasureville (No. 4, 11-4), Northeastern (No. 5, 10-5) and South Western (No. 6, 10-5) each won double-digit games this year. All three can handle any given team and should be considered dangerous, Becker said.
"They're all really solid," he said. "So it should be a really good playoffs. A lot of teams that we beat handily are different teams now and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Glen Rock earned the No. 7 seed with a 9-6 record, while Dover (8-7) is the No. 8 seed.
Dover 2, Suburban York 0: At Suburban, Dover pitchers Joe Dolan, Steve Stoy and Bryce Smith combined to throw a shutout to lead the visitors to the victory. They combined for three strikeouts, two walks and allowed no extra-base hits. The victory clinched the eighth-and-final seed in the upcoming York-Adams American Legion playoffs. Grant Hoover (2-for-3, double, two runs scored, one stolen base), Austin Jewitt (1-for-2, one RBI) and Alan Hansel (1-for-1, stolen base) led Dover. For Suburban, Mark Strine (2-for-3, one stolen base) and Frank Skehan (2-for-3, two stolen bases) led the way. Pitchers Caleb Baughman and Jesse Mowrey combined for eight strikeouts and two walks in the losing effort.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.
Following are the eight teams who made the York-Adams American Legion double-elimination playoffs, along with their final regular-season records.
1. Spring Grove 14-1-0
2. New Oxford 13-1-1
3. Hanover 12-2-1
4. Pleasureville 11-4-0
5. Northeastern 10-5-0
6. South Western 10-5-0
7. Glen Rock 9-6-0
8. Dover 8-7-0
Following are Thursday's first-round Legion pairings, along with the result of the regular-season matchup between the teams.
Dover at Spring Grove (at Spring Grove High School), 5:45 p.m. (Spring Grove won the regular-season meeting, 7-0).
Glen Rock at New Oxford (at New Oxford High School), 5:45 p.m. (New Oxford won the regular-season meeting, 14-4).
South Western at Hanover (at Diller Field), 5:45 p.m. (Hanover won the regular-season meeting, 3-2).
Northeastern at Pleasureville (at Central York High School), 5:45 p.m. (Pleasureville won the regular-season meeting, 4-2).
DO: Dolan, Stoy (4), Smith (6) and Harman, Kuhn; SY: Baughman, Mowrey (4) and Skehan, Baughman (4); WP: Dolan; LP: Baughman; 2B: DO, Hoover.