Pa. baseball season in review: Marple Newtown has historic season

The Marple Newtown players and coaches celebrate after winning the state championship.

Two days after Marple Newtown made history by winning the program’s first state baseball title, head coach Mark Jordan’s cell phone continued to ping with congratulatory texts.

“It’s been a whirlwind, really,” Jordan said Saturday afternoon. “There are so many emotions involved. I’m just excited for my players, the school, and the entire community.”

The Tigers outlasted District 3’s Lower Dauphin, 2-1, in 10 innings to capture the PIAA Class 5A state crown Thursday night at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

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Marple Newtown’s Luke Zimmerman (17) watches his walk-off single in the 10th inning vs. Lower Dauphin.

Luke Zimmerman’s walk-off single plated No. 9 batter Sean Donnell (2-for-4, RBI) from third base and clinched the dramatic victory.

“It was a total team effort,” Jordan said.

After taking over for Zimmerman in the sixth inning, senior righthander Sean “Big Panda” Standen twirled 4 1/3 innings of shutout ball to earn the victory. He struck out five while yielding three singles.

“He was put in a tough spot, and he handled it extremely well,” Zimmerman said. “He came up huge for us.”

Marple Newtown went 17-0 to start the season, won the Central League title, placed second in the District 1 tournament and won four state playoff games to close with a 25-2 mark.

For its accomplishments, Marple Newtown is the Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania baseball team of the year.

Marple Newtown was sparked this season by ace southpaw and first baseman Zimmerman, centerfielder and lefty hurler Alden Mathes catcher Luke Cantwell and shortstop Kevin Merrone.

Jordan is assisted by Jim Balk, Brian Leon, Jim Ross, and Anthony Greco. Leon (class of 2011) and Greco (2014) are Marple Newtown graduates.

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Marple Newtown pitching coach Jim Balk. He was the head coach at Radnor for 36 seasons.

Balk, who won more than 400 games in 36 years as Radnor’s coach, is the squad’s pitching coach. He and Jordan have coached together for eight years at the two schools.

“He’s crazy good at what he does,” Jordan said of the 75-year-old Balk. “He has so much knowledge to share with the kids, and he happily does it.”

Coach of the year: Bensalem’s Harry Daut

Harry Daut guided Bensalem to a 23-4 record, the Suburban One League National Conference title and the program’s first district championship.

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Bensalem coach Harry Daut (with sunglasses) talks to his players after the Owls’ 6-0 win over Williamsport in a PIAA Class 6A baseball quarterfinal.

The Owls  nearly won the Class 6A state crown, reaching Friday’s final in Penn State before losing to District 7’s Canon-McMillan, 10-3.

Daut, in his fifth season with the Owls, was a centerfielder and righthanded pitcher at Bensalem (class of 1982) and pitched at Temple under former longtime coach James “Skip” Wilson.

Comeback player of the year: Neumann Goretti’s Joe LaFiora

Neumann-Goretti’s Joe LaFiora suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left arm early last season and underwent Tommy John surgery.

After missing the rest of the year and going through a lengthy rehabilitation process, the senior played a key role for the 15-6 Saints as a designated hitter, first baseman and pitcher.

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Neumann-Goretti’s Joe LaFiora (27) posted 14 strikeouts in a PIAA Class 2A first-round playoff win over Dock Mennonite.

LaFiora batted .320 with 23 runs, 16 RBIs, 16 runs, three home runs and three triples while earning first-team all-Catholic League honors as a DH.

Freshman of the year: Malvern Prep’s Lonnie White

Malvern Prep outfielder Lonnie White batted .320 with 26 runs, 24 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and six doubles.

The second-team all-Inter-Ac League pick has already drawn interest from the Division I likes of Auburn, Louisville, and Virginia.