Malvern Prep’s baseball team didn’t win the Inter-Academic League title.
But with the 2017 season officially closed, the Friars can call this past spring a rousing success.
Playing its second game of the day May 27 at Upper Perkiomen High School, Malvern Prep defeated Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy, 9-2, to win the state tournament of the PAISAA (Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association). It was Malvern’s third title in four years, fourth in the last six, fifth in the last nine, and sixth in the past 12.
“After we didn’t win the Inter-Ac,” said senior Vince Sposato, “we set our sights on winning the state championship.”
The Friars were indeed on a mission.
In victories over Friends’ Central, Haverford School and SCH, the Friars outscored the opposition by 25-4.
“Towards the end of the season, we all came together and really played our best ball of the year,” said Sposato. “We had some incredible contributors that stepped up in clutch times.
“I’m so proud of everyone on our team. It was a great way to end our high school careers for the seniors.”
In the final, Sposato was a huge contributor with two hits, a walk, a sacrifice fly and four runs batted in.
The real thrill, however, was catching the final out from his perch in left field.
“Right when the I saw the ball off the bat, I wanted the last out and luckily it came to me,” said Sposato. “It was an honor to catch the last out. It’s something I’ll never forget. It was a great time and an amazing way to end the season.”
Senior Shane Muntz said the Friars “put in a ton of work, and after losing the Inter-Ac, we made it a goal to not lose again the rest of season and win states.”
Junior Billy Corcoran pitched the initial six innings to notch the victory.
“The championship game was well fought by our team and was a great game by all,” said Corcoran. “Pitchers usually get all the credit, but there’s nothing better than having a team like that behind me in the field and up to bat.”
Junior Brady Devereux entered the contest in the seventh inning and exited with a perfect frame. Before the aforementioned shallow fly out to Sposato, Devereux struck out two batters.
“At first, it took a little bit to settle in that we just won a state championship,” said Devereux. “I was driving down the shore with three of my teammates when it really hit me. Winning this lifted a little bit of weight off everyone’s shoulders after a disappointing Inter-Ac season.
“It was sort of a surreal experience to be a part of something that special with my team.”
Malvern coach Freddy Hilliard summarized his team’s overall accomplishments, one that included seizing 23 of its last 26 contests and finishing with a nine-game winning streak.
“They could’ve just cashed out and played selfishly, but instead, they committed themselves to achieving one of our yearly goals and ended their season on an incredibly high note,” said Hilliard. “Am I surprised by that? Not in the least bit.
“Malvern baseball is a very proud tradition, and none of our kids take that lightly. It was just another example of the character of our kids to focus on the process and play winning baseball even after missing out on one of our top goals.
“It was a special group with a lot of seniors that just refused to end their careers without a championship. It made our coaching staff and myself extremely proud to see them enjoy their state title celebration after all the hard work and tough breaks they encountered this season.”
Sophomore Chris Newell is one of several underclassmen who will defend the title next spring.
“We had arguably our best offensive performance of the year,” said Newell. “Everyone was doing their job and getting on base for us. We had clutch hits in big spots with men on base.
“We knew we had a tough day ahead of us, and every single one of us battled through it. We got great pitching performances from both Billy and Brady. The best thing about playing on this team is knowing that there is always someone to pick you up.
“Having trust in all of our players is what made us special this year, and what allowed us finish in a dog pile.”
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @johnknebels.