High School Sports

Homer-Center ends season for St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy

St. Joseph's Nate Mellott doubled and scored his team’s only run in a 3-1 District 6 Class A semifinal loss Tuesday to Homer-Center.
St. Joseph's Nate Mellott doubled and scored his team’s only run in a 3-1 District 6 Class A semifinal loss Tuesday to Homer-Center. adrey@centredaily.com

When Bryce Herman pitches for St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, he sticks to the same routine from the time he wakes up until he runs his postgame sprints.

He starts his day by reading three quotes on his mirror. The first is from the book “Extreme Ownership”: A leader has nothing to prove, but everything to prove. The next two are in the Maori language from the book “Legacy” and, translated, mean: Stand fearless and Care for the people, then go forward.

Herman cycled through his routine Tuesday in preparation for the No. 3 seed Wolves’ District 6 Class A semifinal matchup against No. 2 seed Homer-Center and tried to put those quotes into practice on the mound. The junior right-hander gave his team a chance to advance to the program’s first district championship game in just its third year, but St. Joseph’s fell 3-1 to the Wildcats at First Commonwealth Bank Field.

After the season-ending loss, Herman completed his game-day routine with sprints alone in left field as his teammates packed their equipment and Homer-Center dragged the infield dirt. Herman stopped to pray between sprints and maintained a positive mindset.

“Although we did lose, it’s pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things,” Herman said. “I just wanted to thank God.”

With the win, Homer-Center advanced to face No. 1 seed Juniata Valley — which beat Claysburg-Kimmel 5-0 on Tuesday — in the district championship game at Peoples Natural Gas Field on a day to be determined.

Wildcats ace left-hander Nate Davis outdid Herman, limiting St. Joseph’s to three hits and one run to earn the win.

Herman, who recorded seven strikeouts, gave up three runs on six singles in six innings for the loss, marking the second straight season that ended in the district semifinals. St. Joseph’s came into this season looking to win the district title and make a run in the PIAA playoffs, and the Wolves will take the same goals into next season.

“Next year we’re winning this game — whoever we’re playing. We’ll be playing in Altoona in Curve stadium next year,” St. Joseph’s coach Greg Herman said. “We’ll have the bulk of this team back. We’ll be ready to roll.”

Bryce Herman will return to lead the way as he did this season. Homer-Center coach Scott Bauer had a glowing scouting report on the Wolves’ right-hander, but he knew Herman was a polished pitcher when he watched his pregame routine, which included stretching and arm exercises, in left field.

“Most kids, they just grab the ball, go to the bullpen, throw 20 pitches and they say they’re ready,” Bauer said, “but I could tell he puts a lot of time into his craft.”

His routine started well before he arrived at the field. He aims to sleep nine hours, eats oatmeal for breakfast and wears his baseball socks under his school uniform as part of that process. But first, he sees those quotes from the books.

“Extreme Ownership” explores leadership in the military and how to apply it to business and life, while “Legacy” reveals how the All Blacks rugby team in New Zealand built its culture to dominate for decades. Herman said the quotes remind him to play for his teammates and God and to maintain his work ethic.

“I think that’s a reminder from everyone else that I’m competing against in high school — and hopefully at the next level — that they’re working, and I need to be too,” Herman said.

Herman struck out the side in the third inning and kept St. Joseph’s tied at 1-1 until the fifth. With two out and runners on second and third, Homer-Center’s Canyon Rankin sent a slow roller to third base. Rankin reached on the play for an infield single to drive in the go-ahead run, and the second run scored on a throwing error on the same play.

It proved to be more than enough run support for Davis, who allowed St. Joseph’s lone run in the third inning when Nate Mellott doubled and later scored on a single by Dylan Broderick. Davis cruised through the final four innings and punctuated three leaps with three fist pumps after the final out.

“I just like to win,” Davis said with a smile and thick eye black still on his face. “It feels really good to win in these big-type of games.”

St. Joseph’s has yet to experience that feeling, but Bryce Herman stayed optimistic after finishing his postgame sprints.

“You can’t let it eat at you,” Herman said. “You have to put your trust in the process, and you can’t put your value in the outcome or you’ll be demoralized when you lose. You just got to keep working at it, get it next time.”

Ryne Gery: 814-231-4679, @rgery