Seniors savor special season
UNIVERSITY PARK — It’s fitting that the Tyrone baseball season ended with the entire team smashed together in a dogpile celebrating a state championship.
The Golden Eagles, especially the senior class, have been that close most of their lives.
“This feels amazing,” said Tyrone senior Brandon Lucas, who was the Eagles’ quarterback in football, a starting forward in basketball and the third baseman in baseball. “I went through the grind in all three sports and put my heart into it for four years. It feels so good to share this moment with my teammates right now. I didn’t feel any pressure today, because I knew either way everyone would love me. That’s how tight of a team we are. We have been brothers since little league, and I’m so happy to win this with them.”
Lucas singled and drove in two runs Thursday during Tyrone’s 5-0 win over Oley Valley in the PIAA Class 3A championship game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
His fellow seniors also had big contributions.
Leadoff man Bryce Hunter went 2-for-3, scored two runs and stole a base, shortstop Rodney Shultz tripled among his two hits and scored a run, and outfielder Blaine Hoover went 2-for-3, scored a run and had a steal.
Defensively, senior catcher Michael Buck handled Aiden Coleman’s complete-game shutout.
“This means so much because of all the work we’ve put in together,” Hoover said. “This whole group, our class, has been something special. These guys are my brothers, and it’s good to go out on top.”
Many of the seniors who starred in Thursday’s game were big contributors as sophomores on the 2019 Tyrone team that earned the top seed in the District 6 playoffs but was upset by eventual state champion Mount Union.
They did not get the chance to avenge that loss as juniors when the coronavirus pandemic canceled the entire spring scholastic season, and several players took the loss of last year’s graduating seniors hard.
“I truly think we would have had a better offense last year with Kevin (Lehner) and some of those other kids,” Tyrone coach Kevin Soellner said. “We would have had all our same pitching, and I truly believe we could have won last year, too. I feel bad for them, but I feel like they are as happy for us as anyone here today.”
Losing the 2020 season made winning the championship this year a priority and something the team worked for since that loss to Mount Union.
“When you start playing a sport, you want to try and get to whatever the highest point you can get to, and in high school, that’s to become a state champion,” Shultz said. “That’s what we are. It’s a dream come true. We got it.”
Tyrone showed a glimpse of what it was capable of by knocking off eventual District 6 champion Central, Altoona and Bishop Guilfoyle to win the Altoona Curve Classic earlier this season. Another senior, Brenden Grazier, was named MVP of that tournament.
“We knew that we could compete with anybody,” Hoover said. “We knew that going into the season. Every single year our goals are to win the Mountain League, districts and win states. But at the beginning of the season, all that seems so far away.”
Thursday, Tyrone finally reached its biggest goal. The Golden Eagles best finish before this season came when they won the school’s only District 6 baseball title in 1992 with eventual Tyrone baseball coach and former athletic director Tommy Coleman, Aiden’s father, on the mound.
“Baseball has been pretty solid around here for years,” Tommy Coleman said. “Even before I played, we had some success. But for this group to do what they did, it’s pretty special. It’s a great group. All the credit goes to the seniors. I felt for them, because last year they didn’t really have a season, and this group of seniors has been so talented across the board in football, basketball and baseball. I have to give the credit to those seniors who can ride off into the sunset now.”
Hoover and his classmates soaked up the moment Thursday before being part of a parade through Tyrone, during which the Golden Eagles passed a group of youth baseball players that had walked up from the field to see the players they will one day be hoping to emulate.
“This is like nothing I’ll ever experience again,” Hoover said. “This is something we’ll be talking about the rest of our lives and that people will never forget.”