MILL HALL - The rain poured down on the Mill Hall Community Park yesterday.
As the wind blew speckles of water into the dugout, members of the Central Mountain baseball team laughed and joked around with each other.
One day away from the District 6-9 Class AAAA playoff opener, and the Wildcats appear calm, cool and collected.
Even though a rival who has proven to be a stumbling block stands directly in the path.
The locals have a quarterfinal date with State College 4 p.m. today, at the Community Park. The winner advances to face off with No. 1 seed Mifflin County next week.
"It's definitely something that we expect to do every year because of the mentality that our players have and the past success we've had here," CM manager Mike Kramer said. "We've played some good ball throughout the season and we would like to see it continue into the playoffs."
Ryan Hill understands the Central Mountain tradition.
Every year, the Wildcats have made some noise in the postseason.
Numerous berths in the district title game, including last season.
Deep runs into the state bracket.
Yes, the senior catcher knows no team takes the locals lightly anymore.
"The past teams have set the bar. We are hoping to reach that bar they set," Hill said. "We are working pretty hard, and we continue to progress throughout the season. We had to build that team unity in the beginning because we had so many different faces on varsity. I think that you have seen that throughout the season. As long as everyone is on the same page, we will be just fine."
Of course, it comes as no surprise that State College stands in the way.
It seems like that's the way it always is.
No matter what sport.
"State College is a good team. It's going to be tough," Hill said. "You have to focus on them first because they are the first team you see in the bracket. That's where the focus has to be."
The Wildcats and Little Lions just recently played with State earning an 8-5 victory in Centre County.
This time, though, it's in Clinton County at a place where Central Mountain has had success in the past.
"State College has a nice team," Kramer said. "We kind of gave them some runs early, and when you do that against a good team, it's tough to battle back from. You just can't do that against State College. This time, we have to play a good game, limit our mistakes, and hopefully, capitalize on their mistakes."
"The first time we played State College, we were too sloppy," Hill said. "If we can clean it up, we will be fine. Our bats will come around. We are not an offensive powerhouse, but we are so scrappy. We never quit, and we scrap runs across the board."
There is not much of a secret in the Quad-A bracket.
Central Mountain lost to State College, and were trimmed out by Mifflin County, 1-0, in Lewistown. But the locals beat No. 3 seed DuBois at the Beavers' home field.
Altoona was on the regular-season schedule, but the game was canceled because of the weather.
"It's anyone's ballgame," Kramer said. "Baseball is a sport where you never know what is going to happen. That's why you play the game because every one is unique. We saw Mifflin County, State College and DuBois. Altoona has a pretty good team. Every one of the teams can play well. We have to eliminate the mistakes and execute.
"You would always like to get that extra bye so you can save your pitching. But we are pretty deep in that area. I feel comfortable with all of our guys. You will be right in the heat of the district playoffs early, and you have to boost up your play and intensity. It's always an exciting time."