"Not No. 2, not No. 3, not No. 4, not No. 5 . . . No. 1, baby!"
That's what senior outfielder Grant Latran shouted while he and his Devon Prep baseball teammates accepted their first-place medals Friday night at Penn State's Medlar Park at Lubrano Field.
With a dramatic finish, the Tide nipped previously undefeated Elk County Catholic, 2-1, to capture their first PIAA Class A state championship.
The winning run came in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Chris Bauers stealing third base and, after the throw from home got past Elk County Catholic's third baseman, popping up and dashing to the plate.
Pat Kane, Devon Prep's third-base coach, called for the steal and also waved the senior outfielder toward home. With the taut victory, the Tide handed Elk County Catholic, a District 9 team about 21/2 hours northeast of Pittsburgh, its first loss in 27 games.
The Tide, who closed with a 16-8 record, also won the District 1 title. Before this season, the squad's best showing in states was a quarterfinal appearance.
For its late-season resolve and thrilling finish, Devon Prep is The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania baseball team of the year.
"We've made so much progress over the last four or five years," Tide eighth-year coach Mark Aquilante said.
Of Bauers' two-out theft of third against the Crusaders, Aquilante said, "Chris is our best base stealer. It was a great gamble in that situation and, hey, it worked."
Devon Prep played most of the season without injured ace righthander Zach Schellenger. The Seton Hall recruit was shut down in early April with a strained flexor muscle.
Another pitcher, junior lefty Sean Phelan, was shelved for a period because of arm tendinitis. Junior Pat Rohr, sophomore John McSurdy, and senior C.J. Kohlbrenner shined while picking up the pitching slack.
Coach of the year. There were a number of strong candidates, but the nod goes to La Salle's Joe Parisi.
Bouncing back from two Catholic League playoff losses that nearly ended their season, his Explorers reeled off five straight wins en route to their second Class AAAA state title in three seasons.
La Salle (21-6) capped the run with Friday's 4-2, eight-inning victory over Conestoga. Junior Brian Buckley's two-run single was the clincher.
Parisi, also the school's athletic director, is 453-238 in 28 seasons in Wyndmoor.
Best pitching combo. With starter Josh Lafferty and closer Dan Zurowski serving as a solid one-two punch, Pope John Paul II went 23-6 and earned Class AAA district and state crowns.
Lafferty, a righthander bound for Widener, and Zurowski, a lefty submariner ticketed for Misericordia, went a combined 18-4. Zurowski notched four saves.
Rookie of the year. For Penn Charter, freshman righthander Matt Gorman went 4-2 with a 2.90 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 431/3 innings. He was a second-team all-Inter-Ac League selection.