UPPER GWYNEDD — The bulldog and the go-to man both delivered, and the rest of the Lumberjacks did their part to chop down one remaining obstacle.
Top-seeded Skippack came through on Friday night, holding off an inspired Valley Forge team to win a decisive Game Five, by the count of 4-3, and capture the Perky League Championship at crowded Hostelley Field.
"It's a great feeling. We worked really hard this year, battled a lot of injuries as a team and fought adversity in this series," said Skippack second baseman Matt Cavagnaro. "It was a tough series. They're a good team over there, a scrappy team. They played hard and we're lucky we got away with it."
Cavagnaro and pitcher Tyler Eckman earned Co-Most Valuable Player honors, as Skippack followed up a dominant regular season with a clutch performance in the playoffs and finals.
"Good teams are led by coaches. Great teams are led by players," said manager Jeff Murtha, who directed the Lumberjacks to the crown. Murtha had been close several times before, guiding deep postseason runs with the Lansdale Tigers and Skippack Wranglers. "The whole year, this team was led by the players. And it made my job real easy.
"(Winning the title) was the goal. That's why we put this team together."
Skippack jumped out to a two games to none lead (thanks in part to a 15-K effort by Eckman in Game One) and saw Valley Forge storm back to force a Game Five.
But the Lumberjacks held firm.
"I knew if we gave Tyler Eckman the ball in Game Five, they wouldn't touch him," Murtha said. "He gave us everything he had. He threw 150 pitches on Monday and another 100 today. He's a bulldog. And I knew if we needed to bring in (Jason) Mills (to close), it would be perfect.
"Matt helped me out a lot with this team this year. He's been kind of my go-to man. Without him, none of this is possible."
Eckman got the win again for the Lumberjacks, limiting the defending-champion Bucks to three runs off of seven hits. He had a strikeout, a walk and one hit batter.
Said Eckman: "Going into this game, I didn't know how much I had in me. I was going inning by inning. I relied on my fielders and they came up big for me. We had big expectations going into this season. A championship was the only thing on our mind."
Valley Forge took the early lead.
Matt Seiple led things off in the first with a towering double to left.
A wild pitch moved Seiple over to second, and with one out, a hard-hit chopper by Andrew Curran allowed Seiple to race home to make it a 1-0 game.
Skippack powered ahead in the second against right-hander Zach Smiley.
With two outs, Frank Pollock singled, Chad Evans walked, and Rob Zinsmeister also drew a walk to load the bases.
Cavagnaro came through with his second hit in as many at bats, lining a single to right to drive in two for a 2-1 Lumberjack lead.
Cavagnaro would go 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two RBIs.
"I had a rough year in the regular season, compared to other years in the past," he said. "So it was just nice to be able to help the team when it mattered most. When we formed this team, there was such a bond. We're all close friends. It was really a team effort to win this."
Skippack widened the gap in the fifth.
Jim Fasano drew a walk and Jason Kelmer flared a single to the right side.
A wild pitch moved the runners up, and then Kyle Wenger's line-drive double to left scored two to build the advantage to 4-1.
Valley Forge tightened things up in the sixth.
Matt Seiple was hit by a pitch and then Dylan Tice sliced a single to left.
Wenger made an outstanding catch in right on a deep shot by Andrew Curran for the first out, but then Chris Connor drew a walk to load the bases.
Marquice Wood delivered, smacking a single to center. Seiple scored and Tice beat the tag at home, drawing the Bucks within 4-3.
On came Mills.
"We each have a job to do," he said. "And it was just my job to come in and make some pitches, and everything worked out."
Mills retired all five batters he faced, including two strikeouts. With two outs in the seventh, he got Matt Seiple to ground out to third, and the title was Skippack's.
"These guys worked so hard. You get a little worried after you drop two games," Mills said. "It's easy just to roll over and lose a third one but guys stepped up, and we did everything that we had to do tonight. And it was awesome."
Mills is no stranger to championships, having helped Nor-Gwyn seize the title in 2017, which ended a 27-year title drought for the Packers.
On Friday night, he came on and was in command, locating well and operating smoothly with catchers Frank Pollock and Pete Moore in the sixth and seventh innings.
"All three of us were on the same page," Mills said. "We've seen these guys probably 20 times now in a series. So you have a game plan going in and it's just a matter of executing and it just worked."
Players stayed on the field long after the trophy presentation, savoring the victory, and the season.
"You win one, and it's like, is it ever gonna feel the same?" Mills said with a big smile. "And I'll tell you what, winning championships never gets old. I played with these guys for a long period of time and we never really got to do it together. It's something special being able to do it with close friends and guys that you've known for such a long time."