The overall number of teams competing in the upcoming Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament has fallen to 12.
Nevertheless, tournament organizers still feel there's a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding this season’s draw.
For the first time in a long while, there will only be two local teams entered. That's because of the controversy surrounding this year’s York County Championship Series, which was won by Susquehanna League champion East Prospect.
For the second time in three seasons, the Pistons used a player that the Central League believed to be ineligible in Austin Gallagher, formerly of the Lancaster Barnstormers. The result from the dispute was that the CL, which runs the Kerrigan draw, barred East Prospect as an organization, as well as all of the players on its roster, from participating in the Kerrigan event.
In response, the SL withdrew its second entry, which would have been playoff champion Conrads.
That left a field that was expected to be 16 cut down to 14. In addition, two other out-of-area teams dropped out from the three-day bracket.
While 12 teams is a far cry from the 40-plus teams that entered in the past, the tournament modified its typical double-elimination structure to include a day of pool play before partaking in a bracket that includes all 12 squads.
Initial projections called for three pools of four teams, but that has been changed to four pools of three teams. The result is that every team will play two games Saturday for seeding purposes into the final draw.
The winners of the four pools will automatically advance to the double-elimination quarterfinals at noon Sunday. The remaining eight teams will play an elimination contest at 9 a.m. Sunday, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals.
Here’s a quick rundown of the two local teams entered this year — CL regular-season champion Stoverstown and CL playoff winner Jefferson.
Stoverstown: The Tigers' loss in the county series to the Pistons certainly has taken a toll on manager Tim Thoman personally. The resulting controversy, as well as some back-and-forth bickering, has drained most of the passion from the veteran skipper.
“I just want to have my name cleared from the stuff that the guys in the Susquehanna League are saying,” Thoman said. “I play things by the rules and that’s what upsets me. We’re out there to win this weekend, but (this controversy) has just taken the whole luster out of it for me.”
Thoman is hoping that a solid day of baseball Saturday will help reignite his passion. The good news for the Stoverstown boss is that the Tigers will play both of their games Saturday on their home field.
That’s especially important because the draw in Pool D figures to be rough. In addition to the Tigers, the South Penn League all-star entrant as well as perennial contender Susquehanna Assault complete the pool.
Stoverstown will play the Assault, winners of five Kerrigan titles over the past decade, at 1 p.m. Saturday, before taking on South Penn at 4 p.m. The Assault and South Penn kick off the pool with a contest at 10 a.m.
While the Tigers will lose a few key players from their regular-season roster because of college or work commitments, Thoman did sound upbeat about his CL pickups for the Kerrigan. Stoverstown added Steve Pokopec, Mark Burnside, Dan Dierdorff and Zach Stoll from Mount Wolf, as well as Austin Allison, Jonah Latshaw and Matt Jordan from Manchester.
Jefferson: The Titans have only won the CL regular season once, but skipper Pat Schultz and his crew have become somewhat regulars in the Kerrigan draw by continually winning the CL playoff title. For the fourth year in a row, the Titans, who won the Kerrigan title back in 2017, are in the field.
Jefferson cruised through the CL playoffs by sweeping all three best-of-3 playoff series against Mount Wolf, Glen Rock and Stoverstown. The Titans enter the draw as hot as they can be, riding an eight-game winning-streak.
With some reinforcements on the way with CL pickups, Schultz sounded very upbeat when discussing his team.
“I’m excited,” Schultz said. “We have a great group of guys. I like to take the same guys in the draft every year because, as good as they are, its even better to play with them.”
The pickups for the Titans include Conor Miller, Dan Rhodes, John Riveria-Moore and Dan Rogers of Glen Rock, Logan Allison of Manchester, Chase James of Vikings and Miles Campbell of Mount Wolf. Campbell, however, had to drop out because he also plays with Mechanicsburg of the Twi-Light League, which is playing in the tournament.
The philosophy for picking wasn’t overly analytical for Schultz. For the most part, his picks are based on personality.
“I just pick guys that I want to play ball with,” he said. “And it has worked before.”
The Titans kick off Saturday play in Pool A with a 10 a.m. contest against Staten Island at Mount Wolf. After SI takes on Pleasant Gap at 1 p.m., Jefferson will face PG in the final game of the day at 4 p.m.
Notes: Pool B includes the trio of the Baltimore Brew Crew, Cecil County and Mechanicsburg. The BBC takes on Mechanicsburg at 10 a.m. Saturday at Manchester with CC and Mechanicsburg squaring off at 1 p.m. CC and the BBC finish pool play at 4 p.m.
Pool C features Delco, the New York Hawks and the Lansdale Cannoneers at Shiloh. Delco and Lansdale begin play at 10 a.m. Saturday, before the Hawks and Cannoneers play at 1 p.m. The Hawks finish off the pool at 4 p.m. against Delco.
In the event there are three teams with identical records in pool play, ties will be broken by a process of elimination. Once a team has broken the tie or has been eliminated, the remaining two teams tied will use the head-to-head result as the tiebreaker. The criteria to break ties is as follows: 1. runs against; 2. runs scored; 3. shutouts; 4. shutouts against; 5. least number of ejections; 6. drawing of numbers (the team that draws No. 1 will be the winner).
The tournament final will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Mount Wolf, with an if-necessary game to follow at approximately 4:30 p.m.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.