HERSHEY -- West York pitching star Kaden Hepler achieved a significant milestone on Thursday afternoon.
Bulldogs' catcher Jesse Bortner figured his batterymate and friend would be too modest to mention the feat. So Bortner did the honors.
"He got his 300th (career) strikeout," Bixler said following West York's 8-1 victory over Northern York in the District 3-AAA third-place game.
The 300th K certainly is noteworthy, but the thing that matters the most to Hepler and his teammates is they will be competing in the state tournament on Monday.
The Bulldogs will carry a 20-4 record into the contest against District 6 champion Hollidaysburg.
Northern, which won the state AAA title last season, saw its season end. The Polar Bears closed at 18-7.
Northern's Jon Mayer went 3-for-3, but the team managed a total of just four hits off Hepler. The right-hander, who will play NCAA Division I college baseball next year at Winthrop (S.C.) College, struck out seven and walked two.
"My fastball was really good today," Hepler said. "I felt like I threw the hardest I did all year. I mixed in a curveball, and the slider worked really well for me."
Hepler also helped his own cause by collecting two hits and picking off two runners with his fake-to-third, throw-to-first move.
"That's like 13 or 14 guys he's picked off," West York head coach Roger Czerwinski said. "That shuts down the other team's running game, and that is what sets him at the next level."
Hepler has earned 24 victories in three seasons to go with the 302 strikeouts.
"Three hundred and two strikeouts, that's a pretty big milestone looking at the three-year span," Czerwinski said.
The Bulldogs' coach liked the way his team responded to Wednesday's 7-2 loss to Twin Valley in a semifinal game.
"We talked to the players and told them, there are opportunities in life, and we took advantage of the opportunities," he said. "We had to come out today and make things happen, and it was pretty evident we put pressure on them today."
West York stole five bases, bunted for a base hit and executed two sacrifice bunts. Sophomore Carson Fries led the Bulldogs' attack by going 3-for-3 and driving in four runs. Fries, who struggled in Wednesday's game (0-for-3), singled across one run in the first, two in the third and one in the fourth.
"Coach Stare told me to relax, just go after the pitch, keep swinging and something will happen," Fries said. "When I got the first hit, I felt a lot of pressure off my shoulders from yesterday. I was putting the bat on the ball better today."
Jerrin Toomey added two hits for the Bulldogs.
West York's Brett Kinneman delivered a defensive highlight when, after making a catch in right-center field, he threw out a runner attempting to go from second to third.
"What makes this group so special is that, from one to nine, anyone can come out on any day and contribute to our victory," Czerwinski said.
The latest victory earned the Bulldogs a spot in states for the second time in three years.
"We got a long ride ahead of us," Hepler said. "But, it doesn't matter where we play, we're going to come out ready to play. I'm pretty sure all the guys in here would rather trade a district championship for a state championship. That's our next goal."
Czerwinski believes that Monday's game will be played in Altoona, but the site and time are not official yet.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin email@example.com or 505-5407.