STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Luke Taylor wasn’t himself in the beginning. But just like his Souderton teammates, the senior righthander settled down in a big way.
Taylor eventually lasted six innings and kept his team in the game until the bats heated up late as Souderton defeated Suburban One Continental rival Central Bucks South, 6-3, Friday in the PIAA Class 6A championship game at Penn State’s Medlar Field.
It was the first state baseball title for Souderton (24-4).
“I wasn’t happy about that start,” Taylor said.
The ending was much better.
“The last game, this is amazing and I couldn’t think of anything better,” said Taylor (4-1).
Trailing 3-0, Souderton scored three runs in the fifth and sixth innings in its comeback effort. This was a team with 14 seniors, and the Indians played with the confidence of a veteran unit, never showing any panic, despite their late-game deficit.
“Overall, I wish every team in America had a team to coach like this,” Souderton coach Mike Childs said. “They made my job easier and a lot of fun.”
Childs and the team weren’t having much fun in the early innings, especially the first.
Central Bucks South, which had lost by 2-0 and 3-0 in its two regular-season meetings with Souderton, scored twice in the top of the first.
Leadoff man Brock Veit walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Bryan Rossi knocked in the second run with a single to left.
“It was tough in the beginning, but I found my groove," said Taylor, who threw 31 of his 99 pitches in the first inning.
Central Bucks South extended the lead to 3-0 on Veit’s RBI single to right in the fourth.
Souderton got a huge game from the bottom of the order. The seventh, eighth and ninth hitters — centerfielder Jordan Morales, catcher Billy Norbeck and second baseman Hogan DeSpain — went a combined 6-for-8 with four runs (including one by a pinch-runner) and three RBIs.
In the fifth inning, Morales hit a one-out double, and Norbeck walked. DeSpain then singled up the middle to load the bases.
Conlan Wall grounded out to first for the first Indians run. Taylor followed with a two-run infield single to tie the score. On the play, first baseman Connor McKeown fielded a grounder well beyond the bag, but Taylor beat starting pitcher Ryan Rieber to first.
After the Indians’ Moses Clemens hit a one-out double in the sixth, Central Bucks South replaced Rieber with Joe Martino, a junior right-hander. Martino walked Dylan Kummery and served up a single up the middle to Morales to load the bases.
Norbeck then made it 4-3 with a bloop single to right. On the play, right fielder Jake McKeown almost made a sensational diving catch. McKeown stayed down momentarily but remained in the game.
“I didn’t get all of the ball and was kind of mad at myself,” Norbeck said. “Then I saw the ball drop, and I couldn’t get mad.”
DeSpain followed with a two-run bloop single to left field over a draw-in infield, making it 6-3 with one out. He talked Childs out of attempting a squeeze bunt.
“I told him, ‘Coach, I want to hit,' ” DeSpain said.
Right-hander Andrew Curran held Central Bucks South to one hit during a scoreless seventh inning to earn the save, and the Indians began the celebration.
“It was a lot . Nervous. Fun. Excited. Pretty much all put into one,” said Curran, who will pitch at Division II Barton College in Wilson, N.C.
Central Bucks South (19-8) thrived all year in the underdog role, which took the Titans to the state final.
“We were 17th in our district and ended [District 1] runner-up, made it to the state finals, and it was good experience for the kids,” Central Bucks South coach Brian Klumpp said. “I think they really enjoyed it. But unfortunately, it didn’t end the way we wanted to.”
The game, originally scheduled for 4:30 p.m., was moved to 10:30 a.m. to accommodate the 7:15 p.m. graduation ceremony for Central Bucks South.
Central Bucks South 200 100 0 — 3 6 2
Souderton 000 033 x — 6 9 0
WP: Luke Taylor. LP: Ryan Rieber