West York's next opponent in the state baseball playoffs is a mirror image of the Bulldogs.
"They run a lot, and they bunt a lot," West York head coach Roger Czerwinski said on Tuesday afternoon at practice as his team prepared for its upcoming quarterfinal game against District 7 runner-up Belle Vernon. The PIAA Class AAA contest is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at Mansion Park in Altoona. "They bunted eight times in their last victory (11-7 over District 9 champion Punxsutawney), and they stole eight bases."
Sound a lot like West York, which finished third in District 3.
The York-Adams League champions swiped five bases against their most recent opponent (District 6 champion Hollidaysburg) giving them 121 for the season. West York (21-4) also successfully executed a suicide squeeze bunt for the seventh time this season.
"We've had a number of players lay the down the suicide squeeze bunt," Czerwinski said. "I don't have to worry about giving the bunt sign because the guy at bat isn't a good bunter. We believe in an aggressive style of play and forcing teams to make plays."
Of course, the two teams didn't get this far by just bunting and stealing bases. The Bulldogs and Leopards also can also hit, pitch and play some defense.
"They have three pretty good pitchers, and they had 17 hits in their last game," Czerwinski said.
Kaden Hepler is West York's ace, but Brandon Kinneman and Joe Prego have also pitched well this season. Hepler, who hasn't lost in 2012 (11-0), pitched four scoreless innings in Monday's 10-0 victory over Hollidaysburg. Czerwinski wanted to check out a final scouting report before deciding on a starter for Thursday's game.
"Going into last night's game, the feeling was that if it was a close game, Kaden and I were both prepared to throw," Kinneman said. "I'm mentally prepared to get the ball on Thursday, but Kaden will be mentally prepared, too."
Kinneman is the Bulldogs' second-leading hitter with a .410 average. Jerrin Toomey leads the team at .419. Adam Ferita (.435) and Joe Simsic (.414) are Belle Vernon's top two hitters.
Six other starters hold plus-.300 batting averages for West York, which is hitting .347 as a team.
One of the keys to the Bulldogs' success has been their ability to get production from every player in the lineup. If one or two players have off nights, another player comes through with a clutch hit.
"You have to give everyone here all the credit in the world," Hepler said. "This (to compete for a state title) was a goal, and these guys were lifting and throwing as early as last fall. Belle Vernon, they play great baseball, and we know it's going to be a challenge, but we're up for it."
Belle Vernon short- handed: The Leopards (19-5) will be missing one player and three coaches for the game vs. the Bulldogs.
Catcher Parker Lynn, along with head coach Dan Palm and assistant coaches Ryan Shetterly and assistant coach Casey Teagarden were ejected after a melee broke out in the bottom of the fourth inning of the game against Punxsutawney.
Under PIAA rules, any player or coach, who is ejected from a game, must sit out the next game.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.