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Dragons’ dreams started five years ago

By Michael Boytim

mboytim@altoonamirror.com

UNIVERSITY PARK — A large portion of the Spring Cove region was in attendance Friday watching Central take on Lancaster Catholic in the PIAA Class 3A championship game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Some of those in the sea of red were youth baseball players who represented teams from places like East Freedom, Martinsburg and Roaring Spring.

Five years ago, when the Scarlet Dragons last played for a state championship, some of the kids watching that day were the ones on the field Friday.

“They have talked about that since we won it in 2017,” Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said. “It’s funny. There’s a picture up in our weight room of some of those guys that are playing now in 2017 watching the game. I think it inspired a lot of them, and I think they were close with some of those players. They watched them play, and we like to think we have a pretty good tradition here, and these guys wanted to carry it on.”

Senior designated hitter Jonah Snowberger was one of those players watching Central defeat Holy Redeemer, 8-3, for the championship.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Snowberger said. “We were sitting down the third-base line. We all sat together, and I remember looking out at the team thinking, ‘wow, these guys are huge,’ and now we get to where we are today, and that’s us. There will probably be kids there looking at us thinking the same thing.”

Paxton Kling, an LSU signee and expected to be highly drafted in the Major League Baseball draft in July, said he knew his class was destined for big things back then.

“I thought we would be here more than once in my high school career,” Kling said. “I was hoping three or four times, but luckily, we got there once. It’s special knowing how much work we put in.”

Playing in Friday’s championship was the culmination of a dream for those young boys lining the fence hoping to watch community history five years ago.

“We have been thinking about this since we were 8 or 10 years old,” Snowberger said. “We were winning tournaments, and we realized this could happen when we got to high school. This year, I have just been trying to soak it all in, because it is my last ride with all my buddies before everyone goes off our separate ways. We had one last game to live it up together.”

Devon Boyles, who hit a three-run home run to help the Scarlet Dragons beat Punxsutawney in the PIAA semifinals and started Friday’s 13-2 victory over Lancaster Catholic on the mound, is a Division I Radford signee and has played travel baseball for most of his life. But his high school team has a special place in his heart compared to those travel squads.

“Maybe as talented, but not as close as we are,” Boyles said. “We all have a pretty good friendship that we’ve had. We’ve all been friends since youth baseball, and some of us even before that.”

As the aspirations of this year’s senior class were realized Friday, others were born among the young athletes watching their heroes.

“It was always a dream of mine when the (2017 team) won it and went out on the field and jumped into that dog pile to do that someday,” said senior first baseman Ty Helsel, who recorded the final out Friday and ended up at the bottom of that pile. “I wanted to be there. I knew in junior high we could give it a good run. It’s great that we got to live a dream.”

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