The York County sandlot baseball season doesn't start until early May, but both of the area leagues are already making significant news.
Just last week, it was learned that Dover would return to the Central League after a one-year absence, giving that league nine teams in 2018.
Now comes word that Red Lion won't return to the Susquehanna League for the 2018 season. That will leave the Susquehanna League with eight teams.
“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” said Jeff Barkdoll, who took over as the league’s president earlier this month. “Red Lion will not be fielding a team for this season. A lot of their guys will be playing elsewhere, but some of those guys will likely be going along with their manager, Mike Zelger, who is now managing at Jacobus.”
Looking on bright side: While some may see the folding of a franchise as a step backward, Barkdoll has a different take. The schedule will expand from 32 games (four contests against the other eight teams) a season ago to 35 this year. Without ties, that means that the five games played between teams will be decisive in terms of tie-breakers for the playoffs.
“We’re going to a block schedule this year, which I think will help us out with games and helps manage teams’ schedules,” he said. “And I think that’s pretty good. We’re looking at a 35-game schedule — each team will face the other seven teams five times. And it will also help with the rescheduling or rainouts and everything.”
Scheduling changes: According to Mike Austin, who is part of a team in charge of the scheduling, squads will complete single-game series through late May before the start of three-game series through early July.
“The important thing is the three games versus the same team in a row,” Austin said. “You play each team once, then you play the same team three times in a row. Then, at the end of the season, you play each team once again.”
Rest of league in good shape: Barkdoll, who is also the baseball coach and athletic director at Penn State York, believes that the league is headed in the right direction. Despite the loss of Red Lion, the remainder of the teams in the league all appear to have a solid level of participation.
“From what I understand, I think (Red Lion) just had more of a numbers thing than anything,” Barkdoll said. “And I think that’s something that everybody has been dealing with. But I will say that the remaining teams that we have, that the numbers look good. I think our schedule will be very competitive from top to bottom.”
Look at last year: East Prospect cruised to the league’s regular-season and playoff titles a season ago with a 24-8 record. The Express also claimed the York County playoff title after sweeping Central League champ Stoverstown in the championship series.
Hallam, which will be managed by Mike Wecker this season, and Jacobus finished tied for second with 21-11 records.
Red Lion fielded a competitive team a season ago, going 15-17 in the regular season.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.