It was inevitable that at least one team would get dealt a tough hand in 2019 during the York-Adams American Legion East Division season.
With only six teams in the East, each team was required to square off four times, instead of twice, against two of their divisional foes. The unusual circumstance was caused after both Suburban York and Stewartstown were unable to field teams this season.
The team that was hurt most by the format was Scott Guise’s Red Lion squad.
Of the 14 games that Guise’s team played in the regular season, 10 came against playoff squads. That includes four games each against Dallastown (9-4-1) and Pleasureville (8-4-2), as well as two vs. East champ Northeastern (10-3-1).
“One of our goals was to be able to qualify for the playoffs,” said Guise, who is better known as the sports information director at York College. “And that is going to give us another opportunity or two to play against a couple more really good teams.”
Because of the gauntlet it faced, Guise’s squad emerged with a 5-9 overall mark, which was good enough to grab a berth in the double-elimination league playoffs. Red Lion, the fourth-place finisher in the East, managed to pull out a couple of big victories against Northeastern and Pleasureville during the season. In addition, Guise’s squad also played (and dropped) a pair of one-run games against Dallastown.
“I think it was good for our guys,” Guise said of the schedule. “It was really good to play against some really good teams, which we got a chance to do a lot this summer.”
Things won't get any easier for the Red Lion team. Red Lion's first league playoff game is at unbeaten West champion New Oxford (13-0) at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday. That game was originally set for Monday, but was postponed because of wet grounds.
Guise, who coached the Red Lion junior legion team the past two seasons, hopes that the lessons learned from playing a grueling regular-season schedule will come in handy during the playoffs. That's why he's comfortable with being the underdog against unbeaten New Oxford.
“We’re the No. 8 seed,” he said. “So nobody is going to expect a whole lot of us. So I just told the guys to go out there and play. It’s a great opportunity for us.”
Missing some high school standouts: The Red Lion High School team had a strong season this spring, finishing just behind York-Adams Division I champ Dallastown. For the most part, however, the team that Guise assembled is not the same caliber as the high school squad. Many of the talented seniors on the high school team are either playing in the Central or Susquehanna leagues or playing on travel teams to prepare for the college level.
So a player such as C.J. Czerwinski, a College of Charleston recruit who was one of the more dominant players on the high school team, isn’t one of the players on the Red Lion roster. Instead, it’s mostly a bunch of younger kids that Guise coached the past two seasons on what was a very successful junior legion program.
Guise is OK with that.
“A lot of the kids on this team are going to have an opportunity to play on the varsity team next year,” Guise said, noting that many will be freshmen or sophomores next fall. “So it’s really good for them to stay together and build some experience.”
Guise can rely on a core of six players with at least 15 plate appearances who hit .290 or better this season. That list is headed by Jacob Earnest, who led the team with a .375 average. Nick Hardesty, who hit .290, drove in nine runs during the regular season, one fewer that Brandon Ritchey’s team-high 10 RBIs.
Alex Connors, one of the few varsity players on Guise’s roster, led the pitching staff with a 2-1 record. In 14 1/3 innings, Connors allowed five hits and stuck out 21, while compiling a 0.98 ERA.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.