Twenty-four hours after a championship celebration, West York's baseball team was back on the practice field.
The Bulldogs accomplished a preseason goal by winning the York-Adams League title with a 4-0 victory over Delone Catholic on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the players reported to the home diamond in Shiloh to begin preparations for the District 3 Class AAA Tournament. West York is hoping that the district tournament ends the same way the York-Adams event did -- with gold medals hanging down from their necks.
"It (winning districts) is a huge goal of ours," Bulldogs' pitcher/first baseman Brandon Kinneman said. "I think we have a really good opportunity if we keep playing the way we've been playing."
West York will open districts on Monday afternoon (4:30 p.m.) on its home field. The Bulldogs will take on the winner of Friday's play-in game between Big Spring and Garden Spot.
"We have some scouting reports, but nothing big on those teams yet," West York head coach Roger Czerwinski said. "Tomorrow, we'll spend some time traveling on the road to Lancaster (to watch the Big Spring-Garden Spot game.)"
Czerwinski isn't certain at this point who his team's starting pitcher will be in the district opener. That says something about the quality of his staff, considering that the Bulldogs have a pitcher (Kaden Hepler) who throws a 90-mph fastball and possesses a miniscule 0.66 earned run average.
Hepler, an NCAA Division I college recruit (Winthrop in South Carolina) has more than lived up to his reputation this season, earning eight of the team's 17 victories.
Kinneman (four victories) and Joe Prego (three victories) weren't as well known as Hepler going into the season, but each has developed into an outstanding pitcher -- Kinneman as a starter and Prego in relief. As a result, Czerwinski has utmost confidence in all three.
"If you look at the last three weeks, Brandon has really come into his own and started to excel," Czerwinski said of the junior left-hander. "One thing you can see (West York videotapes its pitchers) is that you don't know if his fastball is running in or out, and he's really established a pretty hard curveball."
Developing a trust in his off-speed stuff was a defining moment for Kinneman this season.
"Early in the season, I was just throwing fastballs," he said. "The first game against South Western, that hurt me. They hit me. But I adjusted, and the last couple of games, I had everything working, the curveball and slider along with the fastball."
Kinneman has an excellent earned-run average (1.08). He also leads the team in hitting with a .419 batting average.
West York is batting .344 as team and has stolen 115 bases. Brandon Rauhauser has swiped 29 bases, but even more impressive is the number of times he's been caught: zero. Jerrin Toomey is 25-of-26 in stolen-base attempts. Toomey had five steals against Delone Catholic in the York-Adams title game.
"Those are outstanding numbers, but the number that pops up to me more than anything else is our ERA (1.35)," Czerwinski said. "We're not going to score 12 or 15 like we did early in the year. I think at this point, defense and pitching is going to carry everyone in. Along with Kaden, Brandon and Joey, I have three other guys (Carson Fries, Eric Zearfoss and Ryan Dellinger) I can put in there (to pitch)."
West York will carry a 17-3 record into districts. The Bulldogs have won six straight since losing, 3-1, to Northeastern.
"We lost some games, but our goal has always been not to lose two in row, and we haven't done that," Kinneman said. "We can let things go. You clear your head and go out and win the next game."
The next game is Monday for the Bulldogs, who aim to still be playing when the District 3 title game takes place in their home town on Thursday, May 31, at Sovereign Bank Stadium.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org or at 505-5407.