In recent history, North Penn has gained plenty of acclaim in football, swimming, track and field, and volleyball.
When it comes to a sport being recognized as a perennial success, the school's baseball program is either on the fringe or already there. That is due, in large part, to the coaching abilities of Bob McCreary.
This season, McCreary, in his 11th year at the helm, steered the senior-laden Knights to a 20-6 record and their first PIAA state championship. They earned the Class AAAA title with Friday's 3-1 victory over Parkland.
For his efforts, McCreary, 40-11 over the last two seasons, is The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania baseball coach of the year.
In late April, following a three-game losing skid, McCreary attempted to lighten a tense situation by having his players wear throwback jerseys and calling for a session of "phantom infield." In the latter, with the coach using a make-believe ball, players went through drills and pretended to field and throw to the appropriate bases.
From there, the Knights won eight straight games by a combined score of 65-19. They won 14 of their last 15 contests.
McCreary, a sociology teacher at North Penn, was a shortstop-pitcher at both Upper Dublin and Villanova. That was followed by a five-year minor-league stint in the Minnesota Twins organization.
Runner-up: Neumann-Goretti's Lou Spadaccini. The hard-driving skipper guided the junior-heavy Saints to a 20-4 record, the program's first Catholic League title since 1960, and the semifinal round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
Here are some other season-ending awards:
Team of the year. Before the season, Penn Charter was expected, along with others, to battle for positioning behind Inter-Ac League favorites Malvern Prep and Germantown Academy.
The Quakers spoiled that forecast by going 9-1 in the league and claiming an outright title. Their only league slip-up was a 2-1 loss to Chestnut Hill Academy.
Penn Charter, 20-4 overall, started the year ranked No. 6 in The Inquirer's Top 10 poll. The squad finished in the top spot, just ahead of North Penn.
Rookie of the year. Showing eye-catching grit and savvy for a ninth grader, Penn Charter righthander Kenny Koplove went 9-0 with a 1.37 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 61 innings. The 5-foot-11, 135-pounder allowed 52 hits and walked 21.
Comeback player of the year. Slowed in the preseason and in the early going by walking pneumonia, Central Bucks East senior third baseman Matt Tenaglia recovered enough to hit .352 with 26 RBIs and a .750 slugging percentage. He is headed to James Madison.
Newcomer of the year. Wielding a wooden bat, Frankford senior outfielder Wander Nunez, an import from the Dominican Republic, hit .576 with 27 runs, 13 doubles, and 5 home runs. He and Edwin "Tito" Rohena (.580 average, 46 RBIs, 36 runs) made up quite the one-two batting punch.
Transfer of the year. Malvern Prep sophomore lefty Chris O'Brien, coming over from Episcopal Academy, posted a 6-1 record with a 3.15 ERA and 31 whiffs in 352/3 innings. He was ineligible to play in Inter-Ac contests.
Top pitching combos. Several teams could feel equally confident calling on either of two starting pitchers. The best tandems included North Penn's Eric Ruth and Mike Bradstreet; St. Joseph's Prep's Kyle Mullen and Kevin Gillen; West Chester East's Jay Lynch and Neal Herring; Germantown Academy's Tim Vernon and Keenan Kish; and Neumann-Goretti's Mark Donato and Al Baur.
Best small-school story. New Hope-Solebury, with a roster of just 12, won a PIAA District 1 Class AA championship and advanced to the state quarterfinals before losing to Brandywine Heights. The inspiring run included a heart-thumping, 10-9 first-round state win over District 11 champion Pine Grove.