When Kenny Morgan gathered together a group of players from his Chartiers Valley/South Fayette American Legion team from years ago and the C-I-T squad that folded the previous season to form the South Hills franchise in 2012 in the Greater Pittsburgh Federation League, not much was expected of his team.
But South Hills surprised other teams in the league by finishing fourth and qualifying for the postseason, where it was eliminated in the semifinals by perennial powerhouse St. Johns-Lefty's in a hard-fought series.
Now in its second season, South Hills' success comes as a surprise to no one.
South Hills won its first three games of the season and sat in fourth place with a 7-6-1 record through 14 games.
"When we started 3-0, I started getting calls from around the league saying, 'We know you're for real,'" said Morgan, who played at South Fayette and Clarion University. "We're not able to sneak up on anyone; we're seeing each team's best pitcher every time out."
South Hills has taken care of business against the teams behind it in the standings, as it is 7-1 against teams currently sitting fifth through seventh -- Mt. Lebanon, Bellevue and Ohio Valley.
The best South Hills could manage, however, in its first six games against the league's top three teams -- St. Johns, Steel City and Allegheny Valley -- was a tie.
The tie did come against the Saints, the only blemish on the seven-time defending champions' record thus far this season.
"[St. Johns] is the top dog, but we seem to match up well with them," Morgan said. "We scrap and are a blue-collar team. We don't care if the pitchers are throwing 95 or 70 [miles per hour], we take the same approach and expect to get hits and expect to score runs.
"So we look forward to the challenge of facing the best. It's a good measuring stick for our program."
South Hills returned nearly every starter from last season's team, led by pitcher Ethan Weiss. A Seton-LaSalle alumnus who will be a senior at Wheeling Jesuit, Weiss has been one of the best pitchers in the league the past two seasons.
Joining him atop the rotation is South Fayette's Sean Lubin. Lubin plays college baseball for La Roche College, but didn't throw one inning for the Redhawks.
He did have a very good season at the plate, hitting .329 and finishing second on La Roche with 16 steals and third with 24 RBIs.
He's part of a very balanced attack for South Hills.
"Everyone's chipping in," Morgan said. "We have power throughout our lineup. We have five or six guys who have [at least one] home run this season."
One of the keys was South Hills' ability to add key players in the offseason. Michael Bolla (Bishop Canevin and West Liberty University) and Lee Bodnar (Chartiers Valley and Point Park University) have been key additions in the infield, while Lubin's older brother, Nick, and Thomas Jefferson graduate and current Pitt Panther Greg Schneider have added depth to the pitching staff.
After having just 16 players at the start of last season, Morgan said the roster is up to 25 this year and he expects it to grow even more as the program continues to make strides.
"There has always been a lot of talent in this area," Morgan said. "Last year, I had to push to go find guys. This year, I had guys calling me to try and get on the team.
"Somebody even came up to me in the spring with the idea of having an AAU team to develop players into our program. It might be a great way to continue to build it."