A ‘Community Team’ – Community Raised and Built the 2018 PIAA 2A State Champion Orioles

| June 15, 2018


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (EYT) – Yes Rocky Grove – it’s for real. You are the PIAA Class 2A champions. It is not a dream.

(Photo: Rocky Grove High School principal Ed Baumcratz (center) is flanked by two of the heroes of the Orioles PIAA Championship game win brothers Scott (left) and Travis Perry (right). Photo submitted by Ed Baumcratz)

As you wake up this morning, or perhaps you haven’t gone to sleep yet, the score remains the same – Rocky Grove 5, Camp Hill 4.

The Orioles, yes the Orioles, are the first team in District 10 history to win a PIAA baseball title. They are bringing home hardware that the big schools in Erie, the braggadocious schools in Mercer County and everyone in between can only wish they have.

And they did it the right way. With kids from Sugarcreek Borough the villages of Rocky Grove and Reno. The last of this group moved into the Rocky Grove school district when he was 12, Travis Perry. And even then his long trek was coming from Oil City. There was no need to recruit like a certain school in Hermitage does every year to win PIAA basketball crowns or an unnamed Erie school does to take home football titles. There was no need to put together a superteam where players come from across the borders in Ohio and New York and don’t know each other until high school.

No, this team was built the way a high school championship team ought to be built. Through the hard work and dedication of the kids, their parents and community members.

This isn’t just a state championship for the players on the Rocky Grove teams and their coaches, this is a state title for the entire borough of Sugarcreek, the entire Franklin Little League organization and really for all of Venango County.

“This is a community team,” Rocky Grove’s manager Bill Wilson, who has overseen the Orioles for a decade now, said. “This is not a team that was assembled from all parts of Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania and put in a school where these kids might have met when they were freshmen, sophomores or juniors. These boys have been a family the entire time. It makes this dream all that much better. I’m dang proud of a public school doing the job. I am just very proud of all of the public schools out here doing their job this year. I think we have a majority of them (at the PIAA championships). Public schools are representing well.”

Wilson is 100 percent right when he points to this being a “community” team. Because so many people in the community both past and present have had a hand in this victory.

People like Mike Murphy, Donnie Jones and Blane Gold. The parents, grandparents and other relatives of these players. The list goes on and on and on.

“It’s people like Mike Murphy who go out there (like he is doing this year) and take a ragtag group of kids for all-stars,” Wilson said. “You have a whole community of men like that who see these kids and are not going to let them not have all-stars, not let that go. You have guys like Mike and Donnie (Jones) and all these other coaches running around town chasing these kids, playing ball, doing their job bringing them up through the system. That is what you have to do. You have to keep that system running from the bottom to the top. Ten years and a lot of hard work from these guys and their moms and everyone else, grandparents, uncles, aunts driving them around doing everything they did (to help win this championship).”

I will say this. I am not going to pretend to be an expert on the hard work that it took to turn this Rocky Grove team into champions. I have only really been covering the Orioles for two, perhaps three years, and then mostly from afar. But I will say this. It is easy to tell that the community cares about this team, these young men, these coaches.

The outpouring I have seen on social media during this run has been amazing. The number of viewers who tuned into Blane Gold, Eddie Baumcratz, the high school principal, and myself doing a pregame Facebook Live show was astounding. The number of likes on the Facebook Live video of the award ceremony in just 10 minutes took me aback. Heck, we even had someone ask on our D9Sports.com site (you know the site that covers District 9 sports, not District 10) why there weren’t any tweets about Rocky Grove pregame info going into the game. And it’s easy to see why. This team, this community team, is so much like most of the community teams I have covered in District 9 for 20 years, and now the people in District 9 almost feel like one of their own just won the championship.

So soak it in Sugarcreek Borough. Soak it in Franklin. Soak it in Venango County. Because this team made history. This group of 14-18-year old men will forever live in the annals of Pennsylvania High School Sports.

Say it one more time just for fun. Your 2018 PIAA Class 2A Baseball Champions, the Rocky Grove Orioles!


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