Brock Netter, Staff Writer
WILLIAMSPORT — Before this spring, it had been nine years since Westfall’s baseball program stood atop the SVC.
But the Mustangs now reign supreme.
They have a solid mix of veterans and youth, a group that’s been led on the bump by sophomore hurler Luke Blackburn.
The flame-throwing righty has been dynamite for the 19-4 Mustangs, including pitching in the final two games to clinch the SVC championship.
With the Mustangs heading into tournament play, we caught up with the Mustangs’ ace to talk about this season, playing for head coach Trevor Thomas, a rubber chicken bat — yes, you read that correctly — and much more.
Question: Although you’re just a sophomore, you’ve had such a huge hand in Westfall’s success this year. What has this season been like for you all around?
Blackburn: This season has been great. We always play together, and we have intensity. That’s the most important thing you can ask for in a team. But throughout a couple of games, I struggled a little on the mound. So I knew I had to pick it up for my teammates and myself. The past two outings, I cleared everything out of my mind and knew I had to get ahead of the count on every batter. And I trusted my pitches, and great things have happened. We beat Unioto 2-0 and we beat Zane Trace 8-2 for the SVC title. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. Our team chemistry is unbelievable right now and that’s what we need moving forward.
Q: Speaking of that SVC title, you guys won it for the first time since 2010. What was that feeling like getting that final out and earning the crown?
LB: It was unbelievable because we worked so hard this season to accomplish that. Our coach said to us in the beginning of the season that this is a three-loss league and he was right.
Q: What’s it like playing for coach Trevor Thomas, and how has he made you better on and off the field? Also, what did it mean for him to tab you as the team’s ace?
LB: It’s great playing for him. He is very encouraging and tells us to pick it up when we are down. He’s made me better on and off the field because he tells us what I can do better to improve and he always picks me up when I’m having a bad game. It meant a lot to me that he tabbed me as the ace because that means my team and coaches trust and know I will get the job done on the mound.
Q: One thing that was noticed (among many things) in your guys’ dugout is a rubber chicken gun. How did that come about?
LB: My buddy and teammate Jayden Hammond ended up breaking his wooden bat so he had tape in his batting bag and he decided to tape it back together. When he did that, someone brought the two chickens but one cut in half so each half is on each end of the bat.
Q: You guys also talk in Spanish quite a bit, even if it’s just purely for your own enjoyment. But it only seems to raise the team chemistry. Who started that trend?
LB: Casey Ellis started talking Spanish so now it’s a team trend to talk Spanish. I don’t know if it helps us or anything, but it’s just funny to us and it’s worked.
Q: You guys earned a No. 2 seed in the Division III Southeast District tournament. What are your goals and expectations for this tournament run?
LB: Our goals are to stay focused and to take every game step-by-step because no game is going to be easy. Our expectations are to come out firing right off the bat and to not let up.
Q: What is the ideal way to end this season for this Westfall team?
LB: We are aiming to make it to state. That would be mind-blowing. And I believe in our team, and coaches to make that happen. We just have to play good team baseball and erase everything out of our minds when a mistake happens.