Following a late-season loss at St. John Neumann, Montgomery coach Tom Persing informed his team it would not take batting practice before playing undefeated South Williamsport the next day.
Forget working out the kinks. This was all about a baseball fundamental. This was about having fun again.
Persing told his players it was time to play sandlot baseball and from that day forward everything has changed. The Red Raiders stunned South, 2-1 in nine innings and have not lost since while capturing the District 4 Class A championship and reaching the state semifinals for the first time in program history.
"It's a game of fun. It's a game played as kids. Nobody is getting paid yet so it's just fun," Persing said.
Montgomery (20-2) is having a lot of fun these days. It is one of the state's four best Class A teams and is a win away from reaching the state championship. The Raiders will try earning a state final berth at 4 Monday afternoon at Bucknell against Lancaster County Christian.
The games mean a lot these days, but Montgomery understands something important. They are still just games. Teams across the state would love to be in the situation Montgomery is. Many former high school players who have experienced a similar journey speak fondly whether they won or lost.
This is the ride of a lifetime so why not enjoy every second of it?
"We're just having fun," catcher Kyle Russell said. "We're not feeling pressure or anything. We're just playing baseball."
They are playing it at a high level. After rallying past Sullivan County 5-4 in the district semifinals, Montgomery blanked Canton, 4-0, in the district championship, edged District 11 champion Pius X, 2-1, in eight innings in its state tournament opener and blasted Camp Hill, 10-0 in the quarterfinals Thursday.
The offense is coming alive, the defense has been outstanding and Garrett Shnyder and Alex Worthington have been brilliant on the mound. Every starter reached base against Camp Hill while the defense played an error-less game.
Montgomery has been making history with every state win and has been enjoying every second of it. Players are confident in all their teammates and are sharing good times together on and off the field.
"That's all we want to do is have fun," Shnyder said following a three-hit shutout against Camp Hill. "We come out here and have fun and it's been working for us."
On the way to Pine Grove last Thursday, Montgomery relaxed by watching an appropriate movie: The Sandlot. Just like in that movie these group of friends have come together and had the time of their lives - while winning a lot.
The Raiders have won six straight since the season's turning point and 13 of 14 since losing their first game to South. Nothing fazes this team, something Montgomery has driven home by winning six games in its final four at-bats, including four on walk-offs. The most recent walk-off came against Pius X when freshman Thomas Goetz drew a bases-loaded walk.
Montgomery has come from behind several times and has given its fans who are coming out in droves to postseason games something to remember.
These players have become the best team in Montgomery history, doing so by simply appreciating the opportunities they have and following a basic principle.
"It's a lot of fun," center fielder Cameron McHenry said. "We always constantly cheer everybody on whether it's practice or before games where everybody's heads are up. You just have to keep a good attitude and stay positive all the time."