Catty still last D-11 team to win state baseball title
Soon after the final out is recorded in all of the PIAA baseball championship games, a feverish text chain among members of the Catasauqua 1997 baseball team begins.
It simply means that no baseball team in the Lehigh Valley in any bracket has won a state championship since the Rough Riders captured the Class 2A crown.
With the spring sports season silenced due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Roughies were assured of keeping their distinction for the 23rd consecutive season.
“When the final Lehigh Valley team gets eliminated, we started texting each other and know our streak is still alive,” said Tim Superka, a senior and the Colonial League’s Most Valuable Player that season. “It still is something special, and we all still stay in contact and meet with our families.”
Superka led the team in hitting (.458), home runs (8) and RBIs (35), while he posted a 12-2 mark with a 1.13 ERA, 99 strikeouts, and three saves.
On paper, Superka easily was the standout, but he realized how the team hits its peak at the right time as part of the master plan of head coach Scott Brosky.
Superka was part of a veteran unit that included fellow seniors Matt Andrews (.337. 19 RBIs), Dan Lopez (.396, 24 RBIs), Bill Roth (.342), Gino DiSaverio (.360, 19 RBIs, team-high 24 stolen bases) Joel Wedge (.405, 23 RBIs) and Bob Zimpfer (.333). There also were juniors Darren Atkinson, Kirk Funk (.289, 26 RBIs), Derrick Gemmel (.326), Erik Kaintz, Zach Keenan, James Kelly, Garrett Perdick, Lewie Stubits, Tom Van Horn, and sophomore Joe Dobish.
They hit. 361 as a team and averaged 9.92 runs per contest.
After Superka, Andrews was 8-1with a 2.30 ERA and 55 strikeouts and Wedge was 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA. Gemmel had a 1-0 record with a 0.56 ERA. Overall, the pitching had a 25-4 mark with a 1.95 ERA and 190 strikeouts.
When Brosky took over in 1992, the Roughies went 6-12 followed by 5-13, 4-14, 10-11 and 18-7 seasons before the championship 25-4 campaign.
“Coach (Brosky) has a four-year plan,” noted Superka. “He (Brosky) saw what we could do in seventh and eighth grade. He then had us all play as freshmen. We knew we would take our lumps over the years, but he always was planning for our senior year.”
Brosky knew he and his wunderkinds would be on a wonderful whirl.
“They were special kids at the time,” recalled Brosky. “They weren’t just talented in baseball, but most of them were good football and basketball players as well. They were good, well-rounded athletes.
“Guys like Superka and Matty Andrews stepped right in as freshmen, and they got better as the years went on. But this group had it all. They could hit well, pitch and play great and tight defense, and our seniors were great leaders. They hit on all phases of the game. It was a lot of fundamentals and basics that they mastered.
“Superka and Andrews were our One and One-A that season, and they both could dominate. We were fortunate to have two very good pitchers. It was a veteran team of juniors and seniors. We had so many memorable games along the way, and pulled out many of them. When we got the final out, it was an incredible, indescribable feeling.”
Dave Troxell, who was an assistant coach under Brosky, remembered how the final out against Canevin Catholic was surreal.
“You see it on TV when players rush the field when they win the World Series,” said Troxell. “Now it was happening to me.
“I was on top of the dugout steps when the final out happened and we rushed the field. What a great feeling it was. This team had it all. They played together since T-ball and it was a great senior class. They all kept the ball rolling all season.”
Ironically, the Roughies lost to Southern Lehigh, 4-3, in the Colonial League semifinals. They then began a district assault with wins over Pius X (11-4), defending state champion Tri-Valley (4-1), Northwestern (7-3) and Minersville (9-0).
In states, they worked their way through Bishop Shanahan (3-2), Daniel Boone (7-6), and Annville-Cleone before they registered a 10-5 win over Canevin Catholic in Harrisburg for the crown.
Lopez, who hit .396 with 24 RBIs and a team-high 37 hits, saw the Minersville victory as a late-season turning point. He also turned a key unassisted double play at shortstop against Daniel Boone with runners on first and second and no outs that was one of several key and fate-filled plays on their side.
“We beat them (Minersville) pretty handily and from there, we knew it would be a special ending,” said Lopez, “We always hung out together and still get together. We may not have been the most talented team in the area, but we always played well together and had great team chemistry. We also had a lot of versatility.
“When we recorded the final out, I remember having feelings of exhaustion, fear, joy, and relief. It seemed like our whole town was in the stands with all the cheering.”
“We certainly had some luck along the way,” added Brosky. “On the play against Daniel Boone, the ball goes through (Superka’s) legs and right to Lopez who turned the double play. We then got another ground out to get out of the inning.”
Superka echoed Lopez’s thoughts about being a team of destiny.
“Matt Andrews was our vocal leader and Lopez wasn’t afraid of anything,” said Superka. “I may have been recognized as the best player, but I wasn’t the leader. We never had injuries like the year before when Matty (Andrews) had mono and Joel (Wedge) was all banged up.
“After we lost in the Colonial league playoffs, coming back and getting the first district win was huge. We had some close games after that, but we were on a roll.
“We were good, but we weren’t that good. We never thought we dominated. It was just the perfect mix of everything.”
Until next June, it will continue to be just that to a special group of players.