South Park baseball looks to secure 1st state title
With Blackhawk and South Park meeting in the Class 4A PIAA baseball semifinals on Monday, it was evident the WPIAL was going to have a participant in the state championship game Friday at Penn State's Lubrano Park.
Most expected Blackhawk, and as the underdog, South Park coach Steve Bucci knew that. But being the underdog is what made them so dangerous in the Eagles' 10-3 win over Blackhawk to book their first trip into the state championship game in school history. The Eagles (23-3) will play District 2 champion Dallas (13-7) at 1 p.m.
“We got off to a really good start,” Bucci said. “Let's face it. We went in as the underdog. I think everybody is in agreement with that.”
Although it may be South Park's first trip to the finals, its coach has some experience in the big game. Bucci is making his second trip to the finals and is looking to go 2 for 2. As the coach at Canon-McMillan in 2008, he led the Big Macs to a gold medal. As for what similarities he sees in these two teams — the path they had to take.
“It is incredible,” Bucci said. “This will be my second trip, but my first at South Park. No trip to the championship ever gets old. You cherish every day that we have left together as a team and coaching staff. It will never be the same after today. I am just so proud of the kids and coaches with how hard they have worked. We broke through the wall against a team (Blackhawk) that was made out of steel.
“I tell my team, there is not a day that I don't think about that 2008 Canon-McMillan team in some capacity. It might be just for a minute, but there is not a day that goes by. It brings a smile to your face.”
Before beating Blackhawk in the semifinals, South Park defeated Clearfield, 4-0, in the first round and Hopewell, 7-2, in the quarterfinals. Dallas is entering the title game as winners of 11 straight games. They started the season 0-3.
“They are a scrappy team, from what I understand,” Bucci said. “They probably had some issues early on and were finding the right combinations. Whatever they did at the beginning, they are not doing now.”
Friday will be a busy day for the South Park community, as they will also have their softball team competing in the Class 3A state championship against Pine Grove. This is the first time in school history both the baseball and softball teams will be competing for a state title in the same season.
“It has never happened before at South Park,” Bucci said. “It is very rare for it to happen. Someone told me the 1987 Bethel Park baseball and softball team did it. I don't remember it.
“It is great for the school and the township. With it being a small area, it is a tight-knit town. Everybody is really excited for both teams. We are going to go for the sweep and, hopefully, the town will be booming Friday night.”
Drew Karpen is a freelance writer.