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Trojan fans are behind their title-game teams

June 18, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - As the Chambersburg Area Senior High School Trojans baseball and softball teams have progressed through the playoffs, Rudolph Serafini has watched the crowds grow with each victory.

Today, as both teams vie for state titles, Serafini expects to see a large contingent from Chambersburg at each game. Many of the faces in those crowds, he said, are fans who have loyalties extending far beyond when their own children graduated.

"I'm going to go to both games," said Tom Donahue, a former professional football player who moved to Chambersburg in 1958. "I've been following the Trojans since I came here."

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The girls will start the big day with an 11 a.m. game against the Shaler Titans at Shippensburg (Pa.) University. The game was originally scheduled for 3 p.m., but the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association moved up the time of the first pitch.

That means many fans like Donahue will make the trip north to Harrisburg, Pa., to see the baseball team take on the Peters Township Indians at 4 p.m. in Commerce Bank Park.

"That was a smart decision on the PIAA's part," said Thomas Stouffer, the retired principal of Faust Junior High School and an official of the athletic association for 33 years.

Stouffer said he could not recall when one school had two teams playing for the state championship at the same time.

Unfortunately, Stouffer said he cannot be at either game. He is beginning chemotherapy treatments for cancer today.

"It breaks my heart not to be able to go, because I've been following them for years, both the boys and the girls," Stouffer said. "I know a lot of those kids from their parents going to school."

"I'm planning to be at both of them, now that the PIAA has, without us asking, moved the girls' game to 11 a.m.," Chambersburg Superintendent of Schools Edwin Sponseller said. He also could not recall a time when any school had the chance to pull off a double state championship.

"Obviously, we have a rich tradition in both sports," Sponseller said, noting that both squads previously captured the state crown twice.

"I'd love to get another one," he said.

"City Island is just a wonderful place to watch a baseball game," Sponseller said of the home of Commerce Bank Park. Sponseller predicted "huge crowds from Chambersburg for both games."

"It's a good pastime for us older guys," said Raymond Buttaccio, who often goes to games with Donahue and Serafini. At 83, however, Buttaccio said he only will attend the girls' game because of the heat and humidity.

Buttaccio has had a special relationship with girls sports as "The Candyman," according to Donahue.

Thursday, Buttaccio came home with the trunk of his car loaded with candy, cookies and other snacks for the girls' team. A player was coming by to pick up a sack of snacks, including carrots, a favorite of pitcher Rachelle Everhart.

"It was like clockwork. There would always be a bag of candy before a game," said Shelly Corwell, who played for the Trojans from 1998 to 2001. She now plays varsity softball at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., and is doing an internship in state Sen. Terry Punt's office.

Corwell is off today and plans to make some noise at both games. "I've been known to be one of the loud ones," she said.

She described herself as a "junk ball" pitcher and threw batting practice for the team earlier this week.

Serafini said that is just the type of pitcher the Trojans will see on the mound against the Shaler Titans.

"The games they've had trouble, it's been a junk pitcher," Serafini said of the girls' nine. He said the team started the season weak in the field, "but the last couple of games, they've played sparkling defense."

Donahue said the boys' team needs a good performance from their ace, Irvin Sleighter. "If Sleighter gets a lead, if they get a couple of runs, Chambersburg should win that," he said.

Serafini and Donahue said Chambersburg has a solid tradition in baseball and softball because of excellent youth programs from Little League on up.

"Nothing succeeds like success," Serafini said.

Corwell said the success of previous teams sparked her interest. When the girls won the championship in 1994, she went to the parade.

"I remember saying, 'I hope I can play for them someday,'" she said.

"If they both win, we should have a great parade," Donahue said.

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