The Central Scarlet Dragons arrived at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Thursday feeling the weight of state runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2014.
With that “monkey” on their back, coach A.J. Hoenstine said it was tough for his players to stay loose. They knew Central’s recent history in the state championship game — many of the seniors were freshmen on the roster when the Scarlet Dragons saw their perfect season end in the title game in 2014. But Central relaxed after taking an early lead Thursday and rolled to an 8-3 win over Holy Redeemer in the PIAA Class 3A championship game, capturing the program’s first state title.
“These guys wanted this game so bad from the beginning of the year,” Hoenstine said of his Mountain League team. “They know they were playing not just for their teammates, but for guys that came before them.”
Central (24-3) finished with 11 hits and led from start to finish in the win. Josh McKnight and Alex Hoenstine each drove in two runs to help power the Scarlet Dragons offensively, while pitchers Preston Karstetter and Brady Nicewonger combined to limit Holy Redeemer to four hits.
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McKnight said his team was tense at the start of the game — but it didn’t take long for the nerves to disappear. McKnight tripled to right-center field in the top of the first inning to drive in the game’s first run before scoring on a sacrifice fly to push Central ahead 2-0.
The Scarlet Dragons stayed loose throughout the game with their chant of “noodles and meatballs” inspired by Karstetter during a game a few weeks ago. Karstetter said “new noodle” in the dugout when the opposing team turned to a new pitcher, adding that he was throwing “meatballs.” The umpire stopped the game to scold the Central dugout, Karstetter apologized and “noodles and meatballs” had the Scarlet Dragons laughing the rest of the season.
With the chant and first baseman Brice Brumbaugh saying anything to make his teammates smile, Central enjoyed its journey to the state title.
“He’s one of a kind,” Hoenstine said of Brumbaugh. “He’s our Kevin James from ‘King of Queens’ and Chris Farley combined.”
The Scarlet Dragons seniors talked about winning a state championship since they were freshmen. They discussed the dream often during past baseball seasons and offseasons. The players didn’t forget the 5-1 loss to Loyalsock in the PIAA Class 2A championship game at Medlar Field in 2014, either.
“Four years ago, it was a real bad feeling deep down inside,” McKnight said. “Now we’re just out here celebrating.”
The Central fans roared when the Scarlet Dragons were introduced as state champions before receiving their gold medals and the team trophy.
“It’s been an expectation for the 2017 class since we were freshmen to get to this point. It was like we wrote a book,” senior Chase Smith said. “It’s completely amazing that we finally did it for the community, for the fans and for us.”