— CUMBERLAND — The Allegany Campers, who began the season with a 16 game winning streak and won two league titles and a sectional championship, were voted unanimous Area champions, claiming the No. 1 spot in the Times-News poll for the first time in more than 20 years.
Coach Scott Bauer’s Campers finished the season with a 19-2 overall record, the only losses coming in one-run games to Mountain Ridge and eventual state champion Smithsburg, and won the Cumberland City and Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference titles in runaway fashion. The Campers went 4-0 in the City League and extended their City winning streak to 28 games. They were 11-1 in the AMAC and won the conference by three games over runner-up Mountain Ridge.
The 19 wins were two shy of the school record, set by the 2013 team that lost to Cambridge- South Dorchester in the Class 1Astate championship game. Ever since that game, a 15-0 loss, the Campers had the sights set on returning to the state tournament. They fell one game shy of doing that as the season ended in a 6-5, eight-inning loss to Smithsburg in the West Region final.
Allegany is 40-6 the last two seasons.
“Our goal was to get better each day and to win our last game of the year. I enjoyed ad appreciated this team and wanted them to win a state championship,” said Bauer. “I wanted them to have an opportunity to play Cambridge- South Dorchester because last year’s play in the state championship game was not indicative of the way they performed all season. It served as motivation for us.
“Our players work very hard and put in a tremendous amount of time year round. This group played a lot of baseball and had a high skill level. This team consisted of special players who stand out and are successful in our classrooms at Allegany.”
As is the case with most championship teams, Allegany was solid offensively and defensively, but the biggest strength was the pitching mound. The Campers had a team earned run average of 1.67, and in 138 innings gave up only 111 hits, walked 55 and struck out 167.
Bryce Nightengale led the way and was unbeaten on the hill, going 8-0 with a 1.30 ERA. He walked only 13 and struck out 72. Trenton Eirich was 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 10 walks and 26 strikeouts in 26 innings, and lefty Matt Oleksik 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA, 23 walks and 42 strikeouts in 34 innings.
“We had a great pitching staff and over the past two years this was our biggest strength,’’ Bauer said. “(Coaches) Jon Irons and Rodney Imes do a great job of getting our pitchers ready to compete against anyone. We thought our pitching could enable us to win every game if we could field our positions.
“Our main objective was to win the state championship, and we had four players hit over .400 and had five everyday players with on-base percentages of .480 or better. During the length of the season we hit the ball very well but in order to win championships you have to get a couple of breaks, pitch well and play great defense.”
The Campers hit .362 as a team, averaged 9.9 runs per game and stole 38 bases in 41 attempts.
Nightengale led the team with a .438 average and 10 doubles, and also scored 28 runs and knocked in 30. Colton Sivic hit .424 with a team-high three triples, five homers, 34 runs and 31 RBIs, Oleksik hit .406 with six doubles and 30 RBIs, and Brady Hillegas .405 with a team high 30 hits, three triples and 34 runs.
Eirich hit .371 with nine doubles, 30 runs and 22 RBIs, Dylan Shockey .333 with 17 RBIs, Blake Milburn .315 with 18 runs, Jack Hawkins .297 and Wade McGee .291 with 17 runs scored.
Sivic had a .536 on-base percentage, followed by Eirich and Hillegas at .483 and Nightengale and Oleksik at .481.
“We had strong kids who could swing the bat. Bryce Nightengale, Colton Sivic and Matt Oleksik all had 30 or more RBIs, and Brady Hillegas, Trenton Eirich and Colton Sivic all scored 30 or more runs,” Bauer said. “We probably had three of the better hitters in the are in Nightengale, Sivic and Oleksik.
“Brady was very consistent and reliable in center field, covered a lot of ground and made nice plays for us all year. Bryce played six different defensive positions, was great wherever he played, and led us in batting average.”
The area championship is the first for Allegany since 1992, the third of three in a row won by the Campers, coached by Toby Eirich.
“I am very fortunate to have quality varsity coaches in Tedd Eirich, Jon Irons, Rodney Imes and Wes Powell,” Bauer said. “Additionally, Brian Powell runs the jayvee program so I am very lucky to have great men who give a tremendous amount of time helping players. We care and want the best for all of our student- athletes. I am very proud but Ihurt for these players because of how we lost the region championship to Smithsburg.” In the Times-News area poll, four sportswriters voted each week throughout the regular season, and then a final time after all postseason games were played. Afirstplace vote is worth five ratings points, and a fifth-place vote worth one. Allegany was ranked No. 1 in every poll this year.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at email@example.com