Five Mid-Penn Conference programs begin PIAA bracket play: Baseball capsules
By Eric F. Epler | firstname.lastname@example.org
Cedar Cliff (3-1, 17-7) vs. Conestoga (1-3, 17-7), Northern HS, Dillsburg, 4
The Colts secured their second District 3-AAAA title in four seasons last week, and the winning formula seems quite easy: send righty Joe Kidd to the mound. Kidd walked into the final week of April with a single win. He’s now 8-1 counting district victories over Waynesboro, Lower Dauphin and Hempfield. Of course, it helps to have some offensive back-up, and guys like Grant Breneman (.323), Kyle Wickenheiser (.284) and Brandyn Smith (.328) have turned up the heat in the last month. …
John Vogan’s Pioneers have their headliners, too, like a top three in the batting order – CF Austin Shirley (.461), 2B Ryan Ogren (.440) and SS Tom Richter (.446) – who have caused serious mayhem all season. Richter is head to the College of Charleston. Jake Bufo (5-0, 40 strikeouts) is Conestoga’s most distinguished starting pitcher.
State College (6-1, 16-5) vs. Red Land (3-1, 15-9), Penn State-Altoona, 4
We’ve played this Mid-Penn Commonwealth song before, although the stakes are a bit higher in June. The pair of hard-working ball clubs split two regular season tilts with State College claiming the most recent meeting 3-1 on a combined five-hitter by Bailey Ishler and Ken Craig. Without the pitching services of North Carolina recruit Nick Raquet (injury), Ishler (5-0, .245 ERA) had Kyle Peterson (4-2, 1.14) have shared leading roles for Bill Tussey’s District 6 champion. Plus, the Little Lions have used timely hits by Caleb Walls (.413), Calvin Sichler (.324) and Brandon Raquet (.340) to stretch the season. …
The Patriots, meanwhile, saved its season with a tough 3-2, extra-inning win over Exeter Twp. on Thursday. Skipper Nate Ebbert has a pretty sound 1-2 pitching combination, as well, with Jeremy Hileman (8-3, 1.28 ERA) and Zach Newmyer (5-4, 1.04). Together, Hileman and Newmyer have racked up 169 strikeouts in 146 innings.
Northern (3-1, 19-5) vs. Harriton (1-2, 14-7), Wenger Field, 4
If the Polar Bears are going to make another sharp run to State College it will come through the notoriously-challenging western half of the Class AAA bracket. The neighborhood boasts powerful WPIAL products Blackhawk, West Allegheny and District 10 champion Cathedral Prep. …
First priority, however, is defeating a Rams contingent who dropped a 3-2 decision to Pope John Paul II Thursday at Plymouth. Top arm Corey Neel (8-2), who went the distance against PJP II, will likely get the call against Brian Robison’s first-time District 3 champs. Neel is Harriton’s most experienced pitcher, charged with just 10 earned runs over 52 innings. His 1.35 ERA and minuscule nine walks on the season are his most impressive numbers. Although Andre Pendleton (.460) and catcher Skylar Katz (.316) have done some damage, the Rams are hitting just .296 as a team.
Pope John Paul II (1-1, 19-6) vs. West Perry (3-2, 18-6), Immaculata University, Immaculata, 4
A few subplots here are difficult to overlook. First, Pope John Paul II is riding high after securing the program’s first District 1-AAA title with that 3-2 clip over Harriton. It was postseason win No. 3 for talented pitcher Josh Lafferty (9-3, 1.82 ERA), who boasts 53 strikeouts in just under 70 innings of work. Shortstop James Bleming (.390) and versatile players like Trevor O’Brien (.364) and Billy Hitman (.369) also have helped turn around a program that went 5-14 in 2013. Also of note is the absence of head coach John Duffy, who remains suspended following his ejection in the PAC-10 title match. …
How does West Perry respond following its less than perfect performance against Northern Friday in the District 3-AAA championship game in York? The Mustangs were done in by six errors and 15 Northern hits, misfiring on an attempt to win its first district title in more than 30 years. Top righty Ben Dum (10-1, 104 strikeouts) will be on the bump today, which is a healthy start.