In postgame or post-practice huddles, New Hope-Solebury coach Matt Schram said, he talks very little about baseball.
"My words of wisdom to my players are, 'Wrap yourselves in bubble wrap, and don't get hurt before our next game.' "
The Lions' varsity roster includes a whopping 12 players. The school has no freshman or junior-varsity squads. As a result, Schram keeps plenty of ice and bandages around to keep nicks, scrapes, and bruises from sidelining any of his 10 starters (one serves as the designated hitter) and two reserves (freshmen courtesy runners).
"I need to make sure the kids are healthy," said Schram, now in his fourth year at the helm. "That's as important as making sure, baseball-wise, they're prepared."
On Monday, in heart-thumping fashion, New Hope-Solebury rallied for a 10-9 victory over District 11 champion Pine Grove in a PIAA Class AA first-round state playoff at Perkiomen Valley High. The Lions trailed, 9-7, entering the bottom of the seventh.
"It was the craziest game I've ever coached," said Schram, previously an assistant under Greg Young at Council Rock South. "It was like a heavyweight fight. Fortunately, our kids refused to quit."
With two outs and the bases loaded, sophomore shortstop Matt Wilson produced the winning hit. His drive (on a 3-2 pitch) struck Pine Grove pitcher Lee Krammes on the side, and the ball dropped and rested, unplayable, near the mound. Game over.
According to Schram, the dean of students at Council Rock North, it was the program's first state tournament win. Last year, the Lions bowed to District 3 champion Lancaster Catholic, 7-4, in the opening round.
Against Pine Grove, senior first baseman Brad Lampson went 4 for 5 with a triple. In the seventh, his two-run single up the middle made it 9-9. Wilson (3 for 4) and starting pitcher Kyle Davis (2 for 2), a junior who doubles as a catcher, also chipped in at the plate.
In the regular season, New Hope-Solebury (16-5) went 8-3 in Bicentennial Athletic League action and tied for third place in the Independence Division.
Schram said Wilson and Davis have been fighting through back injuries, and senior centerfielder Matt Maiorelli is dealing with rib issues.
"All these guys work so hard, they really do," said Schram, who played third base for Carlisle High, near Harrisburg. "They do it for the program and the greater good of the game."
The Lions' batting order, Nos. 1 through 6, is made up of senior second baseman Mike Rogy, Lampson (.513 batting average, 25 runs, 20 RBIs), Davis (.514, 23, 18), Maiorelli (.435, 25, 18), junior catcher-pitcher Tom Fiala, and Wilson. The District 1 champions totaled 12 hits and 10 stolen bases against Pine Grove.
Tomorrow, in a noon quarterfinal at Bear Stadium in Boyertown, New Hope-Solebury will face District 3 titlist Brandywine Heights. The Bullets (19-4) advanced with a 17-2, three-inning win over Public League representative Esperanza Charter.
Behind Eric Ruth, a senior ace righthander, the North Penn Knights, District 1's No. 5 seed, blanked District 3 champion Chambersburg, 6-0, in a Class AAAA state opener at Memorial Field in Hershey.
Against the fastball-hitting Trojans, Ruth whiffed 16 and yielded only four hits. He fanned the side in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder mixed a fastball, curveball and change-up. On his fastball, which has been clocked in the 86- to 88-m.p.h. range, the Winthrop recruit used different arm angles. He threw 104 pitches.
Support for Ruth, 10-1 this season, came from shortstop Robbie Zinsmeister (two-run home run, RBI double), catcher Matt Albaugh (solo homer), and outfielder Christian Radick (three hits).
Tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Boyertown, the Knights (17-6) will take on District 1 runner-up Council Rock North (16-6) in a quarterfinal.