The annual District 3-AAAA baseball party begins in less than three weeks.
This season, however, when action gets started on Monday, May 18, the York-Adams League may find itself without a much-coveted invitation.
As it stands now, none of the big-school York-Adams teams would make the 16-team AAAA field.
That would be a first.
Since District 3 expanded to four baseball classes in 2005, the local league has always had at least two representatives in the AAAA playoffs. Many years there have been four or five York-Adams teams in the AAAA bracket.
This year, however, a few factors have conspired against the York-Adams League.
Down season: First and foremost, it's a relatively down season for local AAAA baseball. Of the six AAAA teams in the York-Adams League, the best overall record belongs to Red Lion at 9-6, followed by Dallastown (8-7), New Oxford (7-10), Central York (6-9), South Western (5-11) and York Tech (0-15).
With losing records, New Oxford, Central, South Western and York Tech are pretty much eliminated from contention.
That leaves Red Lion and Dallastown left in the running. In the latest District 3 power ratings, through Monday's games, Red Lion sat at No. 18 and Dallastown was at No. 19. The Lions, however, are on a roll, having won four straight games.
Rockets move down: A second factor that's hurting the chances of local teams making the AAAA playoffs is Spring Grove's change in status from AAAA to AAA.
The Rockets are a traditional baseball power. They won the York-Adams League Tournament last season and won the Division I regular-season crown the past two seasons. This year, they've already clinched at least a tie for Division I crown, despite fielding a very young team. In the 10 years there's been a District 3-AAAA bracket, the Rockets qualified nine times, missing only in 2006.
Spring Grove (12-4) is nearly a lock to make the AAA field, as is West York (12-1), which was No. 1 in the latest AAA power ratings. The Rockets were No. 4. The other York-Adams teams in the top 16 in the latest AAA ratings were Northeastern (No. 12, 10-7) and Eastern York (No. 15, 10-5).
So, at least in the second-biggest class, the local league should be well represented in districts.
Fewer teams: One final factor working against the AAAA teams is the smaller bracket now used by District 3.
In years past, the district accepted as many as 22 qualifiers in AAAA.
Since 2013, however, only 16 teams make the AAAA field.
Fewer qualifiers obviously means fewer opportunities for all teams, including those in the York-Adams League.
The York-Adams League has never been considered a District 3-AAAA baseball power. In fact, no local team has ever won District 3-AAAA title, and only one York-Adams school has even advanced to the big-school championship game — South Western in 2010.
Still, the local league's players and coaches would surely like to at least get a shot to prove their worth against the district's best big-school programs.
There is some good news. The deadline for games that count in the final power ratings is Wednesday, May 13, which gives Red Lion and Dallastown two weeks to improve their ratings. There's still hope that the Lions and/or Wildcats may yet make the AAAA playoffs.
It's really up to them.
If they want an invitation to the District 3-AAAA party, they better pile up some wins over the next two weeks.
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.