In the “Sound of Music,” Rolfe was “17 going on 18.”
This spring, Central Bucks South was 17 going on 2. Seeded 17th out of 20 programs in the District One tournament, South (19-8) rode deep hitting and strong pitching out of districts and into last Friday’s PIAA 6A state championship game at Penn State. South led through four innings in the title match before falling 6-3 to SOL Continental foe Souderton (24-4).
Despite a seed that virtually guaranteed their entire postseason being on the road, the finally healthy Titans hit their way to the District One title game. CB South maximized big innings: A six-run third at No. 1 Pennsbury keyed a 6-5 signature upset in the second round of districts while a six-spot in the first at Bensalem yielded the 7-2 district quarterfinal “W” that punched the team’s ticket to states.
“When we got Joey (Loynd) back in the lineup, that gave us a ton of confidence,” explained South manager Brian Klumpp. “We won two games going into districts and that gave us a good boost. All we kept talking about later in the season, especially when we had some tough losses, was to just get into the playoffs. We knew we were good enough to make some noise once we got in.”
South assembled a nine-run sixth inning in the state semifinal, where it didn’t defeat as much as demoralize District Seven’s North Allegheny 11-6.
“That’s what we preached going into the season and emphasized during the playoffs,” Klumpp shared. “We wanted a team-first approach when we’re up to bat. Our guys bought into that and saw the success that that had. They really did think of the team before themselves. They didn’t try and change the game with one swing.
“If it meant taking a walk or getting hit by a pitch, they were willing to do it. They did a great job limiting their strikeouts, which is key in high school baseball,” Klumpp continued. “The North Allegheny game was the perfect example. In that sixth inning, we got a couple of walks, we put the ball in play with two strikes and then got some big hits that just pushed across the nine runs.”
But it was the arms, not the bats, that won South’s first two PIAA games. Susquehanna-signee Brock Veit threw seven strong frames as South nudged Emmaus 4-3 in a first round, extra-inning walk-off. DeSales-bound Ryan Rieber four-hit Wilson West Lawn in a 2-1 state quarterfinal victory.
South’s Big Four on the mound – Rieber, Veit, Owen Petrich and Joe Martino, “were huge parts in our success. There is no doubt about that. They all do a great job of pounding the mitt,” Klumpp pointed out.
“We always preach to make the other team earn it, and we do a lot of defensive work, so our pitchers trust their defense. That is why they have confidence in throwing a ton of strikes and attacking batters,” Klumpp mentioned. “The other part that goes unmissed is our sophomore catcher, Dylan Gruber. He called every single pitch this year. He looked over scouting reports and did a really great job calling games. To ask that out of a 16-year-old is a lot.”
South never lost three in a row, despite not having optimal health. Klumpp credits senior leadership for avoiding slumps. “A lot of the guys had varsity experience and knew that any game in the SOL is a tough game,” the skipper said, “so if you did lose one or two in a row, you couldn’t dwell on those games. They didn’t really focus on losses. They were more worried about the future opponents.”
Veit joined Albright-bound designated hitter Jake Trachtenberg and outfielder Jake McKeown as first team All-Continental division honorees; Rieber made the second team. But the appearances in the state and district title games defined South’s greatest season far more than any individual accolade.