You hear it at every level when you get to this time of the year.
No matter how strong a baseball or softball team's offense is all year long, when it comes to the postseason, it ultimately comes down to one thing — pitching.
So, when the York-Adams League baseball and softball playoffs get started on Monday, it will come as no surprise that the eight teams that qualified by winning their respective divisions boast at least one dominant starter. Ideally, at the high school baseball level, you'd like to have at least one ace, followed by a quality No. 2. And for the most part, the four baseball teams that will play for the league title — Dallastown, Northeastern, Eastern York and York Catholic — have that. Meanwhile, in softball, all you truly need is one shutdown pitcher who can give you a chance to win every time she steps in the circle.
Aces wild in baseball: Starting with the baseball tournament, we might just wind up seeing the two best (healthy) pitchers on display in one of the semifinal match-ups. I say healthy, because had Matt Brooks not gotten injured midway through the season for Spring Grove, the Rockets may have had a better shot of contending with the Wildcats for the Division I crown.
Regardless, when Dallastown and the Golden Knights take the field at New Oxford High School on Monday, I wouldn't expect to see a lot of runs. That's because you'll most likely see a showdown of Riley Hamberger (Wildcats) vs. Colby Shimmel (Eastern) for the right to go to the championship game on Tuesday. The two have been absolutely lights out this year, rarely allowing more than a couple of runs per start, and each has tossed a no-hitter this year and registered double-digits in strikeouts.
Should the Golden Knights advance to Tuesday, they might just be set up better than any of the other three teams with Brandon Knarr as their No. 2 man. Quite frankly, on most teams in the league, he'd be a No. 1 starter if it wasn't for Shimmel. All year long, Knarr and Shimmel have mowed down opposing hitters to guide Eastern to the Division III title.
In the other game, Kody Reeser has been strong on the bump for the Bobcats and will most likely get the ball in the other semifinal showdown against the Fighting Irish. The Towson commit already has a 14-strikeout performance to his name this year and has shown the ability to not only provide strong starts, but also been a very reliable reliever in tight spots.
He'll most likely be opposed by one of two options for York Catholic in either Brenden Kennedy or Matt Knauer, probably the one team in the field that doesn't have a clear-cut ace, but rather just two quality arms it can turn to in any spot. Knauer earned the win last week to clinch a share of the Division IV title for York Catholic, while Kennedy finished the job the next day to clinch the title outright. Together, they combined to throw 10 2/3 innings, allowing just three earned runs in the two starts.
Power arms on display in softball: For the girls, the softball tournament might be devoid of many runs.
That's because, should any of the aces on the four teams in the field — Central York, Littlestown, Susquehannock or Delone Catholic — catch fire, then it puts them in the driver's seat to clinch the league championship.
Don't expect to see any of the four coaches look to their bullpens for help in the tournament. These teams got here on the arms of their top starters and they'll live or die in the league tournament the same way.
When the Panthers and Thunderbolts square off on Monday, look out for Courtney Coppersmith and McKenzie Somers. Central's Coppersmith has been, without a doubt, the best pitcher in Division I this year and will most likely be rewarded as such in postseason awards. She has a perfect game to her name this season, albeit in a three-inning blowout. Meanwhile, Littlestown has been led by Somers, the reigning Division III Pitcher of the Year from 2015 and an all-state honorable mention selection from last year. Now, she'll be tasked with having to out-duel Coppersmith to give the Thunderbolts a shot at the league title.
In the second semifinal game, the Warriors will lean on Maddie Staub when they take on the reigning District 3-AA champion Squirettes. Every time Staub stepped in the circle this season, she put Susquehannock in position to win, including a one-hitter back on May 10 against Dover. Opposing her will most likely be senior Cassie Rickrode of Delone. Rickrode was not only the catalyst to helping the Squirettes to a PIAA Class AA state appearance last year, but she hasn't missed a beat this year in guiding Delone to the Division IV crown. Last Monday, she tossed a no-hitter and will need to come pretty close to duplicating that if the Squirettes hope to get past the Warriors and into Tuesday's title game.
Game times: All semifinal games in the league baseball and softball playoffs will begin at 5 p.m. on Monday. Dallastown vs. Eastern York baseball will take place at New Oxford, while Northeastern vs. York Catholic baseball will play at Spring Grove. There will be a new baseball tournament champion. West York won the 2015 tournament crown but did not qualify for this year's tournament.
Central York vs. Littlestown softball will play at Susquehannock, while Susquehannock vs. Delone Catholic is at Spring Grove. Central is the defending softball tournament champion and has won three of the last four softball tournament titles.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org