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Trojans find their niche, title

June 23, 1999|By MARK KELLER / Sports Editor

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - It was about a month ago that Bob Thomas started getting calls from USA Today.

"You guys were not supposed to be this good," the reporter told the longtime Chambersburg baseball coach during their first conversation.

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"Well, maybe we weren't," Thomas replied. "But we're winning."

And the Trojans kept winning ... and winning some more, culminating in the school's first state baseball championship in 15 years with a 4-3 win over Shaler on Monday.

"We always like to think at the beginning of the year that we can be in the running," said Thomas. "But even some of the kids have said that we probably didn't have as much talent overall as some of the teams we've had in the past."

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But what the Trojans lacked in talent, Thomas said they made up for in chemistry.

"They probably played together better than any team that we've had," Thomas said. "Someone always picked the others up when they weren't having a good game. And that was particularly true in the close games."

Not that Chambersburg played many close games this season. After an 11-1 loss to Waynesboro on April 19, the Trojans rattled off 20 straight wins. Of those, only the final two were decided by less than three runs.

Chalk it up to good defense and outstanding pitching, Thomas said. His top three starters - Aaron Edwards, Chad Braniff and Ben Lefever - posted a combined 23-2 record for a staff generally thought to be weaker with the loss of Alex Hart.

"The only time they got hit around all year was that first Waynesboro game, and they just came out ready that day," Thomas said. "But when you can get pitching like that over 29 games, you're going to win the better part of them."

The middle infield - shortstop Chaz Runk and second baseman Scott Folmar - was strong throughout the year, though Runk had a rough game Monday. Still, Runk made the play that clinched the championship on a bases-loaded grounder in the hole.

"That was the only (bad game) he had all year. The play he made at the end was not an easy play ... the kind that could have handcuffed him, but it didn't," Thomas said. "He made the play we needed at that point. Otherwise, we wouldn't have won the game.

"Pitching and defense are going to keep you in the game," Thomas added. "The nice thing is we have all those pitchers back. If we can fill in the holes where we lost the guys and nothing happens to the pitchers, we should have something to go on next year."

Yes, Thomas is already planning for next year. He said he'll be a fixture at Chambersburg and Fayetteville legion baseball games, looking at who might fill those holes left by the seniors.

And he can plan on answering those calls from USA Today a little earlier next season.

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