Old guard vs. new guard.
Defending champion vs. emerging favorite.
Call it what you will, but it should be an exciting weekend of baseball when Susquehanna League champion Hallam and Central League champion Mount Wolf square off in the best-of-3 York County Baseball Championship Series.
The Express (33-7 overall) won its first county title since 1978 a year ago after defeating Manchester. That marked the first York County Championship victory in four tries for Hallam veteran standout Jason Seitz, who is playing in his 18th and likely final full campaign.
Seitz isn't the only member of the old guard for Hallam. Teammates Shawn Hedrick, Travis Stump, Jake Schoelkoph, Shawn McCleary, Jon Benchich, Rich Leathery and Joe Strayer are among the players with 10-to-20 years of experience playing between the two leagues.
The Wolves (35-5) were a team like that a few years ago, but have transitioned nicely into a younger, yet still veteran gang. Dan Dierdorff, a former Northeastern High School and West Virginia standout, is playing in his ninth season for Mount Wolf, even though he's still in his early 20s. Kyle Cook, Steve Pokopec, Dustin Kuhn, Jesse Sargen, Brandon Scott and Patrick Moriarty are all relatively young as well, so the Wolves figure to be perennial contenders for the York County title for years to come.
"It should be the two best teams in York County matching up and hopefully we can hit that week and go in and get out of there with two wins," Seitz said.
"I'm excited for it," said Dierdorff, who will be playing in his first York County Championship Series. "I've grown up in Mount Wolf and I watched the Wolves win all those championships way back when. I've lived on Second Street all my life so I'm really looking forward to that."
Much like a year ago, Seitz suffered through an injury-plagued season on the diamond. A rib injury early last season and another one when he fouled a ball off his foot were worth it when the former Eastern York standout was able to hoist the championship trophy. This year, Seitz missed nearly six weeks with an injured knee and only recently returned to action.
"I got hurt earlier (last year) when I cracked a rib," Seitz said. "But this year I missed a lot of time and wasn't able to be on the field when we clinched (the regular-season title). I think it's just somebody upstairs telling me that the body is having trouble taking all this beating that I've been putting it through. So I just want to stay healthy for one more weekend and try to win another county championship. And from there I go, 'I'm done, I've had a good career,' and move on to the next chapter."
Not a big shocker, but Seitz feels confident about his team's chances to repeat.
"We're the defending champs," said Seitz. "So they got to come take it from us. But we've heard nothing but good things about that team and I'm sure that's the best pitching staff we're going to face all summer long. But we've got some good pitching of our own, so I would expect all the games to be low scoring. Especially from the team ERAs that I saw."
The games figure to be won or lost on the mound. Both teams feature talented staffs.
"When you're talking about (Shawn) Hedrick, Jake (Schoelkoph) and (Travis) Stump, you're talking about three guys with tons of wins," he said. "Three Hall of Famers. And Matt Ruth and (Alex) Tucci have been lights out. And those guys are both under 25 years old and to throw them in with Shawn, who's arguably the best-ever in York County that's going to be tough for Mount Wolf to face three guys like that."
Dierdorff, who leads a potent one-two combination on the hill with teammate Cook, is looking forward to possibly going head-to-head against Hedrick in perhaps the series opener Saturday.
"For me, I'd love to pitch against Hedrick," Dierdorff said. "He's one of the pitchers that I've looked up to when I was younger. He was like Roger Clemens back then. Now, don't get me wrong, he's still really, really good, but he was the guy back then."
While both teams internally are generally positive in their outlooks, some whispers around the area have gotten under the skin of Seitz.
"I've heard from a lot of people that we don't stand a chance and that we're too old," Seitz said. "Guys that have played over (in the Central League) that I've run into say that. And you're talking about a lot of veterans on this team. Our record the last two years, and I don't know if you know this, but it's 69-13 since we've put this team together. So I just find it hard to believe that anyone can say that as defending champs and a team with that record that we just don't stand a chance. But we're going to find out. Now we know that this is going to be a challenge for us. We're not dumb. We know we're going to have to play our best baseball to win. But to hear people say that that just kind of blows my mind a little bit."
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.
What: The best-of-3 York County Baseball Championship Series.
Game 1: Mount Wolf vs. Hallam at East Prospect, 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Game 2: Hallam at Mount Wolf, 1 p.m. Sunday.
Game 3: Hallam at Mount Wolf, immediately following Game 2 on Sunday (if needed).
Mount Wolf: 31-4 during the regular season and 4-1 in the Central League playoffs — 35-5 overall. The Wolves won the regular-season and playoff titles in the Central League.
Hallam: 26-6 during the regular season and 7-1 in the Susquehanna League playoffs — 33-7 overall. The Express won the regular-season and playoff titles in the Susquehanna League.
Mount Wolf: The Wolves have won 10 York County titles: 2007, 2003, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1989, 1988, 1987.
Hallam: The Express have won two York County titles: 2013, 1978. Hallam is the defending county champion.