Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lyco alum Peifer manages team to LLWS

Tom Peifer ’95
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – For many of the teams that head to South Williamsport, the trip is long and unfamiliar, coming from towns across America like Bowling Green, Ky., Webb City, Mo., Taylors, S.C., and from across the world from countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Japan and Uganda.
'Just to get to the Little League World Series, that’s a really amazing thing to do,' Girardi said
There is one manager heading into the Little League World Series that has distinct memories of Williamsport in late August, though, although they weren’t created on a baseball field. Tom Piefer ’95 serves as the manager of the Red Land Little League team, having helped the team make a remarkable two-month run to reach the apex of 11- and 12-year old baseball, located just a bridge and a few stop lights from the campus where Piefer helped the football team win two MAC titles.

For his part, Peifer said that making the Little League World Series wasn’t what he was thinking about when his Red Land team came together for the first time in June.

“Never in our wildest dreams in June did we think we’d be there,” Peifer, whose son Kaden is a pitcher and catcher on the squad, said.

An action and headshot of Tom Peifer ’95 during his time with the Warriors. Please credit Lycoming Athletics if used.
Yet here they are, after winning District 6, Section 4, Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Region titles. Red Land is one of the final eight American teams playing, and they are doing it just 95 miles from where Peifer works as a school nurse at the West Shore School District just south of Harrisburg.

The Red Land team has posted an incredible 16-0 record during that run and has outscored opponents, 244-13. Now, when the team takes the field on Friday night, Aug. 21, at 8 p.m. for its first game as the Mid-Atlantic representative against the Midwest, Peifer said he, as well as the team, is embracing being the de facto hometown team.

“I think that is the most exciting thing,” Peifer said. “We have hometown support. At the parade (Wednesday night), the guys were treated like rock stars. That is definitely comforting as a coach and for the boys.”

For Peifer, late August in Williamsport is also a reminder of his time as a fullback and tight end for the Lycoming football team. He spent most of his career somewhere in the two-deep for the team and during Lycoming’s championship seasons in 1991 and 1992, he scored three touchdowns.

“I have a lot of great memories from Lycoming,” Peifer said on the eve of his debut as a Little League World Series manager. “Playing for Coach (Frank) Girardi and Coach (Steve) Wiser was an unbelievable experience. A lot of the things I do as a coach come from Coach G.”

Coach Girardi, who led the team to 13 MAC titles and 257 wins from 1972-07, remembers Piefer fondly, as well.

“He was an excellent kid,” he said. “His work ethic stands out with me. He was one of those tough guys that played fullback and he did very well for us.”

One of those things that Peifer said he has taken to heart and tried to instill in his players is Coach Girardi’s insistence to take things one game at a time.

“When I was playing, the big game was always against Susquehanna,” Peifer said, “but the week before that game, Coach G always told us we had to take care of business so that the game against Susquehanna would mean as much as it should. That experience of taking things one game at a time is something I have tried to teach the (Red Land) team from our first day.”

Peifer also had fond memories of his two years on the squad with Lycoming’s current head football coach, Mike Clark ’93.

“Mike was a good leader and he had coach qualities then,” Peifer recalled. “You could tell he was a leader of the offensive line.”

For his part, Clark also saw some of those intangible qualities in Peifer that helped define the Lycoming football teams throughout much of the 1990s, when the Warriors won seven MAC titles.

“Like most of the guys that I played with, Tom was a really competitive guy and a really good player during one of the high points in the history of our football program,” Clark said after the football squad’s first intrasquad scrimmage during preseason camp on Thursday afternoon. “I’m not surprised, having been a part of those teams that he has been able to use the experience that he received from the coaching staff.”

Now, 21 years after taking David Person Field for the last time, Peifer, who also serves as a youth football coach in Red Land, will return to a Lycoming County athletic field for the first time, although this time the stage may seem a little bit bigger. One thing is for sure, his former coaches and teammates will be watching.

“Just to get to the Little League World Series, that’s a really amazing thing to do,” Girardi said. “We’re all proud of him.”