The final weekend of the local sandlot baseball season is just around the corner.
For teams in both the Susquehanna and Central leagues, the dream to play in the historic Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament begins in May.
For others, the thrill of playing in the Labor Day weekend event is also a highlight of the long season.
“Some of the teams that come year after year make comments like, ‘this tournament is the highlight of their season,’” said Kerrigan Tournament director Ed Brenner. “Some never miss it and many are disappointed if they weren't able to get a team together to play in it. The tournament has a lot of history and has been a part of many people’s lives over the years.”
After a sometimes arduous season that is stretching into its fifth month, four local sandlot league clubs are entered into the 16-team tournament, which begins Saturday, Sept. 2, and ends Monday, Sept. 4.
From the Susquehanna League, the regular-season, playoff and York County champion out of East Prospect is one of the favorites. The Pistons (33-8) rolled through the regular season with a 24-8 mark before unbeaten runs through the league playoffs (7-0) and the county draw (2-0).
York Township (23-17) finished fourth in the Susquehanna standings after a 19-13 campaign. Township, however, earned its berth into the bracket after defeating Stewartstown and Jacobus to get to the league playoff finals, where it was swept by East Prospect.
From the Central League, regular-season champion Stoverstown returns to defend its title. The Tigers (27-15) clipped both Manchester and Jefferson by two points to capture the league crown. Stoverstown, however, sputtered out during the playoffs. The Tigers were swept by both the Titans and then the Pistons.
Jefferson earned the Central League playoff title to punch its ticket to the Kerrigan Tournament. The Titans (30-11-1) edged Mount Wolf, 2-1, in the first round before sweeping both the Indians and Tigers to win the playoff crown.
In Saturday's openers, East Prospect will take on the New York Hawks at 10 a.m. at Manchester. At the same time, York Township will square off with Norristown at Shiloh. At 1 p.m. Saturday, Jefferson will face the E-Town Jays at Mount Wolf and Stoverstown will play host to Backyard University.
Backyard University is also a York County-based team featuring younger players, organized by former York Revolution player Jason Aspito and managed by Bret Stabley
Team pick-ups: One of the better parts of the 53rd annual Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament, which was previously known as the Colonial York Tournament, for the local clubs is the roster additions.
Stoverstown picked up Mark Burnside, Grant Hoover and Dustin Kuhn from Mount Wolf, Randy Frankenfield of Vikings, Justin Anderson and Scott Merkel from Glen Rock and Kenny Kopp of Manchester.
Jefferson added Michael Houseal, Logan Allison and Austin Allison from Manchester, Tyler Page, Steve Pokopec and Dan Dierdorff from Mount Wolf and Dan Rhodes of Glen Rock.
East Prospect added Cody Brittain and Ryan McMillan of Stewartstown, Mike Crowe and Drew Kelley from Jacobus, Dan Wecker and Angel Matias of Hallam and Travis Hake of Conrads. The Pistons also added a pair of players from outside the league that are close with shortstop Ryky Smith.
York Township picked up Xavier Bonilla, Eric McNeil and Alex Tucci from Hallam, Nolan Boushell from Conrads as well as Brandan Delridge, who pitches for Penn State York. Township may also add another player or two as they are a few shy of the 25-man maximum.
Extra-hitter rule: New to the tournament this season will be the inclusion of the extra-hitter (EH) rule. While not used in either the Susquehanna or Central leagues, the EH allows a team to add an 10th hitter to the batting order. That hitter will be indicated with an EH as his position.
“The rule is simple,” Brenner said. “You do not have to use the EH. If you don't start with an EH you can't add one in the middle of the game. If you start with an EH you must end with an EH. An EH can bat anywhere in the lineup, but an EH cannot enter the game as a position player at any time. A player who has been substituted already cannot become the EH. It has no effect on the DH, as that has its own set of rules.”
The reason for its inclusion is a nod to some of the teams that come from places as far away as New York which play in the event.
“I was, and still am, skeptical of the EH,” Brenner said. “I listened to the reasons and figured why not give it a shot. I doubt the average fan will even notice there is an EH in the lineup. What it does is give someone who has made the commitment to travel a great distance a better chance to play in a game. It’s no secret that teams are having trouble fielding rosters because players don't want to come and just sit on the bench.”
History: A Central League team has won the tournament 15 times.
Including last year, Stoverstown has won the event three times (1972, 2012 and 2016) with the 2012 title being a shared one with the Susquehanna Assault.
Mount Wolf leads the local contingent with four titles, while Glen Rock, the York Yankees and Pleasureville have two wins each. Dover and the Central League all-star teams have won one title each.
No Susquehanna League team has ever won the tournament. Red Lion came the closest when it reached the finals back in 2004.
Tournament info: The winners' and losers' brackets for the event, as well as game results, can be found online at the tournament website: http://tomkerriganmemorial.org.
In addition, updates can be found on Twitter (@TKBaseballTourn) and Facebook (@TomKerriganBaseballTournament).
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.