Here’s a quick quiz.
Get a local map and stick a pin into Continental Square in York. Then draw a circle with a 25-mile radius.
Then try to guess how many state baseball championships that region has produced in the last dozen years.
The answer is nine.
That’s not too shabby, especially for an area that, until recently, was not often considered a hotbed of baseball talent.
Maybe now it should be.
It should be noted that those nine champions are not limited to just York-Adams League programs. They just need to be located within 25 miles of York.
Red Land is latest champ: Red Land became the latest regional team to win a PIAA baseball title on Friday, earning an 8-3 win over Lampeter-Strasburg.
The York County team featured seven NCAA Division I recruits. It also featured a number of players who garnered international fame in 2015 when they played for the Red Land team that won the 2015 U.S. title at Little League World Series in Williamsport before falling to Tokyo in the overall championship game.
Since that inspiring run, the Red Land boys had long been expected to win a state title, or titles, in high school. Friday, the Patriots lived up to those expectations, and it would surprise absolutely no one if they repeated next season when the bulk of their team should return.
Other area champs: In case you were wondering (and by now you probably were) the other area champions since 2008 have been West York (3-A titles in 2012 and 2013), Camp Hill (1-A titles in 2008 and 2009), Bermudian Springs (2-A title in 2010), Northern York (3-A title in 2011), Lancaster Catholic (3-A title in 2018) and Lancaster County Christian (1-A title in 2015).
Before 2008, that same 25-mile area around York produced just four state champions, dating back to the beginning of the PIAA baseball playoffs in 1977. That spans more than three decades. Those state champs were Northeastern (2-A title in 2004), Red Land (3-A title in 1990), Camp Hill (1-A title in 1999) and Penn Manor (4-A title in 2005).
More classes: Now, the increased rate of area state champions can be partly attributed to the fact that there are more state champions crowned each season. For the first two years of the state baseball playoffs (1977 and 1978) there was just a single class. That was increased to two classes from 1979 through 1998. From 1999 through 2004, there were three classes, and from 2005 through 2016 there were four classes. Since 2017 there have been six classes.
Still, there seems to be more to it than just more championship opportunities.
Talent pool getting better: For one, the local talent pool definitely seems to be growing and improving. There certainly appears to be an increase in the number of regional players who are garnering NCAA Division I scholarship offers, especially from the powerhouse baseball schools in the south.
This year in the Y-A League, Red Lion’s C.J. Czerwinski has committed to College of Charleston, while Gettysburg’s Zach Ketterman is headed to Western Carolina. Last year, Dallastown’s Nick Parker (Coastal Carolina) and Red Lion’s Tyler Burchett (Kentucky) also headed south.
Parker, who earned an NCAA D-I playoff win for Coastal Carolina this spring as a freshman, nearly led the Wildcats to a 6-A state title in 2017. Dallastown won the District 3 6-A crown that year before losing a one-run heartbreaker in the PIAA final.
In addition, West York’s Brett Kinneman shined for North Carolina State before getting drafted in the seventh round last June by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s currently playing for Pittsburgh’s Class A team, the West Virginia Black Bears, in the New York-Penn League.
That is not a complete list by any means. There are many more D-I baseball players emerging from the region. Those mentioned above are just some of the more prominent names from the Y-A League.
Area future looks bright: Meanwhile, the regional baseball well doesn’t look like it will run dry anytime soon. As mentioned above, Red Land looks loaded again for next season, as does Gettysburg, which actually finished ahead of Red Land in the District 3 5-A playoffs. The Warriors took second, while the Patriots were third.
Dallastown and Red Lion, meanwhile, seem to have firmly established themselves as consistent powers at the 6-A level, despite disappointing District 3 quarterfinal defeats in 2019. The Lions finished second in the District 3 6-A playoffs in 2018.
Good coaching: The local standout players, of course, wouldn’t excel at such a high level without terrific coaching, both at the high school and club levels, as well as getting personal instruction.
It doesn’t seem coincidental that the arrival of the York Revolution in 2007 has coincided with the upswing in area talent and championships.
Several former Revs’ players, such as Jason Aspito and Corey Thurman, have mentored some of the top local high school players over the years.
Put it all together, and a strong argument can be made that high school baseball in the York region has never been better.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.