ALTOONA, Pa. - As the two-year starting quarterback at a school synonymous with winning football in the last decade, North Penn's Justin Davey could have decided to throw all his efforts into the pursuit of that sport.
But baseball is his first love. That, and the fact that a 6-foot, 175-pound high school signal-caller doesn't exactly create a recruiting frenzy, kept him on the diamond. And it ensured that he would be part of an unforgettable, leaping-for-joy memory.
Yesterday, with the run-oriented QB playing a pivotal role in center field and at the plate, the Knights bested Parkland, 3-1, in the Class AAAA final at Blair County Ballpark, home of the double-A Altoona Curve, and earned statewide glory for the first time in program history.
In December, Davey's gridiron career ended in disappointing fashion when previously undefeated North Penn bowed to Bethlehem Liberty, 21-14, in a Class AAAA state semifinal at Coatesville High.
"As bad as that was, this is how great this is," Davey, flanked by euphoric teammates, said of the feeling surrounding yesterday's historic triumph over the Trojans.
Davey, the No. 2 batter, went 2 for 3 with a walk. In the top of the seventh, his triple to right-center knocked in leadoff man Robbie Zinsmeister and raised the squad's advantage to 3-0. With star righthander Eric Ruth on the hill, that was about as safe as a three-run lead at the high school level gets.
After arriving here late Thursday afternoon, Davey and the Knights practiced some. They also did a lot of sleeping and watching TV at the hotel. "It was a long wait," the 18-year-old from Lansdale said. "But it was worth it. I wanted this more than anything."
The game was scoreless until the fifth, when back-to-back doubles by second baseman Mark Grassie and Zinsmeister paved the way for a pair of runs.
"Before that, we were getting good swings on the ball," said Davey, whose two-out single in the third moved Zinsmeister from first to third. "Problem was, we were hitting the ball right at them."
This season, the quick-footed Davey batted .342 (25 for 73) with 21 RBIs, 18 runs, and 10 walks. The first-team all-Suburban One League Continental Conference selection will try to be a walk-on player at West Chester.
"The coach [Greg Mamula] knows that I'm coming," he said. "Hopefully, if I work hard enough, I will get a chance to pay there."
Against Parkland, also a first-time state finalist, the Knights' defense was flawless. "We played good defense all year," Davey said. "The practice pays off in a game like this, where it's close and every play counts."
As he did in a state quarterfinal against Council Rock North, Grassie, a junior, contributed from the No. 9 spot. He went 2 for 3 and scored a fifth-inning run.
Afterward, coach Bob McCreary received a handful of shaving cream to the face from junior third baseman Jimmy Smith. "I'll take that once a year," the 11th-year skipper said after cleaning up.