Now, after Tuesday's 1-0, first-round triumph over District 11's Parkland, Kevin Manero's squad is three wins from earning state gold for the second time in five seasons.
"The team has come a long way since the beginning of the year," said Manero, who is in his second season at the helm.
North Penn, 14-10 and ranked No. 6 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, will clash with top-ranked Coatesville (21-6) in a quarterfinal at noon Thursday at Spring-Ford's Ram Stadium.
A key in the Knights' emergence has been the stellar pitching of senior righthander Brian Maher. Against Parkland, he tossed a three-hit shutout on only 68 pitches, including 48 strikes.
"He's thrown some big games for us against some very good teams," said Manero, who pitched at North Penn and La Salle University.
Maher, who is ticketed for Elizabethtown, first gained attention for his four-hit shutout against Strath Haven. It was accomplished on just 60 pitches (including 49 strikes).
"He pounds the strike zone, has good movement, and commands both sides of the plate," Manero said. "In high school baseball, if a team has to swing all day long, the odds are obviously in your favor."
Maher, who began the year as the team's No. 2 pitcher, is 8-1 in 11 appearances with a 1.88 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 592/3 innings.
The lone run against Parkland came in the third inning. Third baseman Brad Bertucci knocked in leftfielder Mason Nadeau with a two-out, left-side single.
North Penn's offense has been spearheaded by rightfielder and leadoff man Brady West (.411 average, 22 runs, 12 RBIs), first baseman Jared Malone (.385, 8, 12), shortstop Chris Kersey (.357, 19, 13), and centerfielder Zillur Rahim (.311, 8, 12).
Manero said Eddie Posavec, a catcher and Binghamton recruit, is "definitely the best athlete on the field. He gets out of the box very quickly, guys don't run on him, and balls rarely get by him."
Senior righthander Dylan Borawski (1-2, 2.44 ERA) is slated to take the hill against Coatesville. The Red Raiders are expected to counter with C.J. Martinez (7-3, 1.81 ERA), also a senior righthander.
Zolk resigns. Citing time demands and regular clashes with the parents of some players, Mike Zolk has stepped down as Neumann-Goretti coach after two seasons.
"There are parents who feel the need and the right to second-guess everything that goes on," Zolk said. "They complain any time they want to to the administration."
Zolk said an unnamed parent stormed into the Saints' dugout and confronted him during their 7-2 loss to St. Joseph's Prep in the first round of the Catholic League playoffs.
"But, honestly, I had it in my mind that I was leaving two weeks before that," he said.
Tuesday, in a Class AA first-round state matchup, the Saints were ousted by District 11's Salisbury, 6-2, at Ashburn Field in FDR Park.
"I've learned a lot the last two years about high school administration and coaching kids whose parents believe they can say whatever they want," Zolk said.
"The parents seem to want to run the ship, so let them coach the team."
Zolk said he plans to focus on being a hitting instructor at Sluggerville, a baseball and softball training facility near Grant Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia.
Draft talk. Boyertown righthander A.J. Bogucki and Bonner-Prendergast shortstop Jim Haley are possible selections in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft, which will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday.
For a complete list of area candidates, including college players with local roots, go to www.inquirer.com/ozone (use promo code R71V).
Rick O'Brien: The Inquirer TOP 10
Previous rankings in parentheses.
1. Coatesville (2) 21-6
2. Pennridge (3) 20-7
3. C.B. East (4) 16-4
4. La Salle (1) 21-5
5. Malvern Prep (5) 27-9
6. North Penn (9) 14-10
7. Haverford Sc. (6) 24-10
8. Neshaminy (7) 15-5
9. C. Rock North (8) 15-9
10. Strath Haven (10) 20-1
Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Bonner-Prendergast (17-6), Boyertown (16-9), Holy Ghost Prep (20-4), Methacton (17-7), St. Joseph's Prep (14-12), Unionville (17-4). - Rick O'Brien
Contact Rick O'Brien at email@example.com. Follow @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.inquirer.com/ozone