Image Courtesy of scienceleadership.org
The SLA baseball team may have finished their 2015 campaign earlier than they would have liked, but the Rockets’ season will go down as one of the best seasons in Public League baseball history.
C-Division was no match this year, as the Rockets finished the regular season with an undefeated 12-0 record. A team mostly dominated by sophomores, only had two seniors returning to the team –Stephen “Stax” Eager-White and Raekwon Smith — but this did not get in the way of their success.
The playoffs would prove to be even better for head coach Doug Herman and his young ball club. After holding B-Division Bodine High school to a hit in the first round, SLA Rockets pitcher Ben Simon, who closed out the game for the team said, “It felt good. It felt real good to pitch that well and that long in my first ever high school playoff game. I hadn’t pitched fantastic during the regular season so it was a great confidence booster to start off the postseason like that”.
The Esperanza Toros were next up. The Toros would be in for challenge, as Rockets came together, after infielder Jason Greene was knocked to the ground after being hit in the face by a baseball, in warmups. Greene would later have to go to St. Christopher’s Hospital, which thankfully was across the street from the field. The Rockets went on to win the game 13-7.
Frankford, the #1 seed in the Public League Playoffs, reigning Public League champs and current Division-A winners were next. The Rockets fell behind early, 5-1 but ended up winning the game 6-5 after keeping Frankford’s offense scoreless for the final five innings.
Lincoln was SLA’s next opponent in the Elite Eight. Lincoln’s pitching was no match for the Rockets’ offense as every Rocket that had a plate appearance got a hit. Starting pitcher Nick Miller taking a 1-hitter into the 7th, plus Simon shutting the door once again, proved to be enough as the Rockets went on to win the game convincingly.
Controversy surrounded the Public League Final Four. MaST Charter, who is not in the Public league, was given the opportunity to play against the Rockets, who had already won the right to represent “AA” in the state tournament, as they were the last “AA” team remaining in the Public League playoffs. The suburban charter school played an independent schedule, which included games against catholic and private schools but were not allowed to participate in their postseason. Further, this is not the first time MaST charter has participated in the Public league playoffs.
PIAA officials denied a proposal, that would have given Furness and Prep Charter an opportunity to play against each for the right to play the winner of the SLA vs. Lincoln semifinal if they were to win, which in turn would make sure that no Public League team would lose their right to play for the city title because of a defeat against a non-public league team.
Coach Herman, also made a proposal. SLA would play MaST charter on a separate day, that would not have any affect on the result of the Public League playoffs and every public league team that had played the charter school be given the chance to play other playoff teams to decide who would move on in the tournament.
Ultimately, on May 22nd, the Rockets and MaST charter met. With the “AA” title on the line the Rockets fell short with Lukas Supovitz-Aznar’s pitching heroics not being enough. Aznar’s arm would be missed, as the team had less than an hour to recover for their second semifinal against Franklin Towne. The Rockets fell behind early 3-0 but managed to take the lead in the 4th, 4-3. Franklin Towne would respond in the bottom of the inning to regain the lead, 6-4. The Rockets’ would have more chances in the following innings but could not get the timely hits that they were known for. Franklin Towne advanced onto the City Final against Olney, who they had just played in the previous round.
After shaking hands with players and coaches from the opposing Franklin Towne side, the Rockets met one more time around the third base bag. The realization of the end, became quite apparent as the players listened to coach Herman’s last post game speech of the season.
Senior’s White and Smith were congratulated by fellow teammates, as their high school baseball careers had come to a close but the two will be participating in the Senior All-Star Game on June 4th, at Ashburn Field. For the rest of the team, thoughts of a 2016 City Title run began to formulate in their minds.
Although the Rocket’s did reach the City Final or the PA state playoffs, they have a lot to be proud of. A C-division public league baseball team that was made up of mostly sophomores, went 12-0 during the regular season, 4-0 in the playoffs and 3-0 against A-division opponents. The 2015 season will forever be remembered as the year that changed the Public League.