In the pressure-packed atmosphere of the postseason, State College reserve Danny Adams keeps things loose in the dugout.
As his teammates step to the plate, Adams yells whatever comes to mind, from inside jokes to nicknames. Calls of “Magic Mike” and “General Friberg” and “Do something cool!” stream out of the dugout between pitches and never seem to stop for seven innings. As Little Lions pitcher Mason Mellott racks up strikeouts, Adams keeps count by yelling, “That’s one! ... That’s two! ... That’s seven!”
It’s his way of contributing to the Little Lions’ run to the PIAA Class 6A semifinals, where they’ll take on Dallastown at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Hershey High School.
“I never shut up,” Adams said. “I just try to channel that into something that’ll help the team.”
Adams felt the team’s lack of energy in the dugout was a problem at the beginning of the season, but State College made the constant chatter a priority in the playoffs. It’s helped the Little Lions bond and move past their 9-10 record in the regular season. After winning the District 6 championship — something Adams said they expect to do every year — the Little Lions feel they’re playing with “house money.”
Adams said opposing teams don’t look at State College’s record and think the Little Lions (13-10) are dangerous, but they’ve continued to surprise to set up Monday’s matchup against the District 3 champion Wildcats (22-4), who are riding a 19-game winning streak. While lights-out pitching has been the story of State College’s postseason, coach Troy Allen said the bench’s involvement has played a role in the team’s success.
“They truly are the most relaxed and focused group of kids I have ever coached in my life,” Allen said.
Allen pointed to the Boston Red Sox, “with the long hair and the beards,” as he talked about having characters in the dugout. Johnny Damon sported long hair and a beard as part of the 2004 World Series champion Red Sox known as the “Idiots,” and Boston’s 2013 team grew beards on the way to winning another World Series. The Little Lions certainly have personality on their team, and it can be seen and heard in the dugout in the form of a custom-made Fathead, a fishing rod and the nonstop chirping.
With Adams serving as the team’s chatterbox — “That job was made for Danny, and he has done a phenomenal job,” Allen said — State College has enjoyed the postseason ride. Adams said he hopes to take some of the pressure off his teammates with his jokes when they’re at the plate. He laughed as he revealed the inspiration behind his efforts after practice Saturday.
Some of the best material, he said, has resulted from mispronunciations of his teammates’ names. During the team’s game against McDowell, Little Lions second baseman Matt Tomczuk was introduced as “Mike,” so his teammates ran with it for their cheers during his at-bats.
“He just became ‘Magic Mike,’ ” Adams said. “Either ‘Magic Mike’ or ‘Butterboy’ because he’s smooth in the infield. He always likes to talk about how he’s a smooth infielder.”
Adams is a fan of his nickname for State College designated hitter Kenny Magnes.
“They called him ‘Kenny Manges,’ so now he’s ‘Kenny Mangoes,’ ” Adams said.
He also likes yelling for State College’s “General Friberg,” though the Little Lions sometimes modify the chatter for first baseman Christian Friberg to “Generalissimo” or “Beauregard Friberg.”
“That’s his beard, the way he shaves it, he looks like a Civil War general,” Adams said.
The fun isn’t limited to Adams’ energy in the dugout as the Little Lions’ good-luck charms have been on display during the playoffs. At Newport High School for the PIAA quarterfinals against Penn Manor, the Little Lions posted a blown-up photo of outfielder Ryan Kraycik’s head on the dugout. Adams said the team managed to get the Fathead from one of Kraycik’s friends, and the Little Lions use the photo as a “K counter,” one of a few ways State College has monitored its pitchers’ strikeout tallies.
In addition to Adams yelling, the Little Lions have used photos of Mellott’s face to track his strikeouts, keeping them on a string in the dugout. And they’ve brought a fishing rod given as a joke gift at the team’s banquet into the fold, taping a “K” on it and breaking it out in certain situations.
“It’s like we’re fishing for Ks,” Adams said. “Every time we get two strikes, we’ll throw that out and we’ll try to reel in the K.”
Mellott, who has recorded 32 strikeouts in 17 2/3 scoreless innings in three playoff wins, appreciates the chatter from the dugout when he takes the mound.
“You know your team’s behind you, so that helps you out,” Mellott said after the team’s win over McDowell in the PIAA subregional. “You’re never by yourself on the mound, or you’re never by yourself on the field or in the batter’s box. You always have your team behind you.”
With everyone from starters to reserves playing their role, State College is staying relaxed and focused deep into the postseason.
“The moment that they cross that line is business for them,” Allen said. “But when they’re on this side of it, they’re laughing and having a good time.”
PIAA Class 6A baseball semifinal
Who: State College (13-10) vs. Dallastown (22-4)
When: 4:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Hershey High School’s Memorial Field, 502 Cocoa Ave., Hershey PA
What’s next: The winner moves on to the state championship game against the winner between Pennsbury-Liberty