Twenty-five games down, one more to go.
Through a 12-8 season in the rough Mid-Penn Capital, two District 3 Class 2A playoff victories and gold, and now three PIAA games, the Camp Hill Lions are one win away from the program’s fourth state crown in program history.
This, future East Tennessee State outfielder and current Lions senior Quinn Buffington said, was not expected.
“To be honest, not really,” Buffington said at Tuesday’s practice, adding that the team’s preseason goal was to win the district title. “We knew we could play, we just didn’t know how far we could go into states.”
“I don’t know if I did [believe] right away, I did recognize that there was a lot of talent on this team,” coach Mike Acey, in his second year in charge, said.
This will be the first state championship appearance for Acey and many of the players — Josh Goodyear, Thursday’s expected starting pitcher, won the state boys soccer championship in the fall.
And this is not a team dreading Thursday’s trip to Penn State’s Medlar Park to face District 10 champion Rocky Grove at 1 p.m. They are loose, relaxed and ready.
“A coach dreams of a team like this,” 38-year veteran coach Acey said.
“It’s honestly giving me the chills kinda thinking about it,” said Buffington about the six-player senior class. “It’s really nice going out on this note. […] To do it with them is really fun.”
The rarely flustered Goodyear, who will be handed the ball in the biggest game of his career, said his nerves are at only a four or five on a scale of 1-10.
“I’m a little nervous, but I’ve been on bigger stages I think,” he said. “Not that I don’t care, but I just like having fun.”
The Lions (17-8) actually lost three straight games to close the regular season, but embarked on a five-game winning streak once the District 3 playoffs began, winning by a combined score of 27-9.
It’s a roster that has gotten excellent pitching for much of the playoffs and then won one of those funky games that always seems to crop up in the playoffs, erasing 4-0 and 6-2 deficits Monday to beat Schuylkill Haven 8-7 on Quinn Buffington’s walk-off single.
Buffington cited momentum as a major reason for the run, saying: “Once one good thing happens, then another good thing happens and it just keeps piling on.”
And even with six seniors in the dugout, Acey’s crew has several young contributors, like freshman catcher Jackson Thompson, that will have to come up big one more time for the Lions to hoist its fourth PIAA trophy in five tries — Camp Hill won in 1999, 2008 and 2009 and lost in 2001, all in Class A.
“There’s respect top to bottom [from seniors to freshman],” varsity assistant coach Matt Spiegel said. “I think these guys kinda understand: Camp Hill, they have a reputation, we have a reputation.”
“We’ll be ready to play Thursday,” Buffington said.