From The Republican.
ALLENTOWN - First came the water cooler shower of Gatorade.
Then, moments later, a Matt Roberts-delivered shaving cream pie to the face.
As his team cheered loudly and watched with glee, Tamaqua coach Jeff Reading could only smile.
A total team effort had his Blue Raiders celebrating a District 11 Class AAA baseball championship for the second straight season.
Bo Rottet pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless relief and unheralded underclassmen Owen Bates and Jake Humes delivered key two-run hits as Tamaqua defeated Schuylkill League rival Blue Mountain 7-1 on Thursday at Coca-Cola Park.
The Blue Raiders (18-6) open the PIAA Class AAA Tournament at 4 p.m. Monday against District 12 runner-up Franklin Towne Charter at Stump Stadium in Pine Grove.
"I'm proud of these guys," Reading said as he attempted to clean off his face. "They work hard every day at practice, and they like to have fun. They keep things light.
"Baseball is supposed to be a fun game. They get their work done and have their fun on the field. They had a lot of fun today."
Tamaqua rode the strong arm of Brett Kosciolek to Schuylkill League and District 11 titles last season, advancing to the second round of states.
This year, however, the junior right-hander has been hampered by a shoulder injury that has limited his time on the mound. Other Blue Raiders have continuously stepped up in big games, and Thursday was a perfect example.
Kosciolek drew the start on the mound, but lasted just 3.1 innings. He surrendered three hits and one run, struck out five and walked four, but didn't have the dominating control he's flashed in the past.
When Jack Barton drew a one-out walk in the fourth, Reading decided it was time to go to Rottet, who has shined in his first year of varsity pitching.
"Brett went out there and gave us what he could on the mound," Reading said. "He threw well for almost four innings. Bo came in, well-rested, and was able to finish the job.
"When he walked (Barton) to put somebody on base, Coach (Caleb) Calarco looked at me and said, 'Do you want to make the switch now?' The No. 9 hitter was up, the top of the lineup was coming up, and we wanted to make sure Bo got himself well-adjusted.
"He came in and did the job the rest of the way."
Rottet quieted the Eagles over the final three-plus frames, giving up just two hits while striking out seven and walking one.
Blue Mountain (15-8) threatened in the fifth on singles by Sean Greenawalt and Adam Hull, but Rottet escaped unharmed.
The victory improved the junior right-hander to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.73 in 36.1 innings.
"It feels great," Rottet said. "I really didn't expect I'd be doing this my junior year. Coach needed me and I was able to come in and throw pretty well this season."
Tamaqua opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when Roberts launched a triple to right and scored on an error.
Blue Mountain answered with an RBI single by Greenawalt in the third, but the Blue Raiders broke it open with three runs in the bottom of the third and three more in the sixth.
In the third, two infield singles and a sacrifice fly by Nate MacDonald gave the Blue Raiders a 2-1 lead. One out later, Bates stroked a pitch by Greenawalt up the middle for a two-run single that gave Tamaqua a 4-1 lead.
"My team needed me to come through and I did," Bates said. "It was the greatest feeling just seeing all the fans go crazy and knowing that you came through.
"He threw me a curveball and just waited back. I don't guess, so I just waited back and hit it right back up the middle."
In the sixth, singles by Owen Bates and Adam Bates opened the frame, and they moved up on a wild pitch. One out later, Reading called upon Humes, a junior who had just 10 at-bats this season, to pinch-hit.
Humes delivered with a two-run single to right-center. Pinch-runner Daylon Barron later scored on an error.
"Guys like Jake Humes and Owen Bates, all the kids that don't get a lot of ink, they've really come up big in key situations," Rottet said.
Three outs later, the Blue Raiders were celebrating again, and having more fun.
"This feels great," Rottet said. "It's the second time we've won a district championship â¦ back to back. It feels awesome."