The Canton High School baseball team made history last Wednesday, rallying past Montgomery, 8-5 while capturing the program's first District 4 Class A championship. For several players, making history has become a common occurrence.
Many varsity players were the first from Canton to win district championships at the 9-10 Little League level, the 11-12 division and the Junior Division. Wednesday was the biggest breakthrough yet but this is what this group does. It makes what once seemed far-fetched become reality.
"It's definitely an honor to be on a team that has won it that many times," said second baseman Trevor Route, who has played on all four championship teams.
Canton’s Wes Moore reacts during Wednesday’s Class A championship game on Wednesday against Montgomery at Bowman Field. The Warriors return to Bowman on Monday for their first state playoff game.
"It is a special group," Canton coach Bob Rockwell said. "That just goes to show you how good a group of kids they are."
Like at the younger levels, the high school team has been excelling for years. It traditionally is one of the NTL's best teams but lost in three of the last four district finals. No matter how good it was, Canton could not seem to clear that final hurdle, including last year when it lost to Montgomery, 4-0.
Ironically, Canton trailed Wednesday's final 4-0 after Montgomery scored four second-inning runs. The Warriors appeared headed for heartbreak again but did not lose confidence. A team that has rallied throughout the season stayed positive, tied the game by the fifth inning and scored three two-out sixth-inning runs to take a three-run lead.
Montgomery loaded the bases with one out in the seventh inning but Route caught a pop-fly and turned a game-ending double play, setting off a celebration more than 30 years in the making.
"It was just follow through and come back. We knew we were going to do it," said shortstop Wes Moore, who ripped the go-ahead RBI single. "We have faith in each other. We haven't given up all year and we weren't going to (Wednesday)."
"Like coach said we just had to go one inning at a time and we did a good job of that," Route said. "It's definitely going to be a lot more fun to tell the kids and all the other people that we were down 4-0 and still came out on top."
Canton (20-2) is having the best season in school history and will try building on it Monday back at Bowman Field when it faces Lancaster County Christian in the first round of the state tournament. The Warriors (20-2) have won league and district championships already and would like nothing more than to hang another banner.
The Warriors have a good core back from last year's district runner-up and opened the season 13-0. They have beaten some outstanding teams like Towanda and have excelled under pressure in the postseason, edging Muncy 2-1 in an eight-inning semifinal thriller before coming back against Montgomery.
What the players are doing is an extension of what they have done since they first started playing organized baseball. Canton has produced winners all the way up and kids have learned to play the right way early. By the time they get to high school, they are prepared and accustomed to winning.
"This isn't just coach (Lyle) Wesneski and I. This is fathers and coaches in Little League and people taking an interest in their kids and that's why we have a good program," Rockwell said. "These kids put their time in to get where they're at."
Rockwell has won more than 300 games in 26 seasons at Canton. He always makes the team's success about the players, but he and assistant coach Lyle Wesneski also are instrumental to it. They receive polished players and help them continue their upward journey. Canton is enjoying one of the best runs in school history, having played in four district finals in five years while recording six straight winning seasons and winning at least one playoff game every year.
Throughout the run, Canton has helped spur younger kids toward playing baseball. Last Wednesday, Canton Little Leaguers lined a few rows of seats along the first-base line. Seeing the players they look up to make history can only help those youngsters as they continue their baseball journey. Combine that with some strong players coming back the next few years and it looks like the good times could last for quite a long time.
"Anything is possible," Moore said. "This is all-out fun now. There is no pressure. Nobody knows us down there (statewide)."
That could be changing.