For five straight days, the only thing the Dallastown baseball team could think about was clinching at least a share of the York-Adams League Division I title against Spring Grove.
The Wildcats expected to get their first chance on Tuesday, but their game against Spring Grove was postponed until Thursday. So, Tuesday and Wednesday came and went, with those thoughts only carrying more and more weight as the days passed. Finally, on Thursday, Dallastown had its opportunity to put all those thoughts to rest and just play baseball.
It didn't take long to see that the Wildcats were the better team on this day. They quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead and cruised the rest of the way in their 7-0 win over the Rockets, earning that share of a division title. They hold a three-game lead in the loss column over Red Lion with just three league games remaining.
The share of the division title is the program's first since 2012.
"Our goals are well beyond the division title and county title and all of those things," head coach Greg Kinneman said. "But, when we talk about things, we talk about Phase 1 and Phase 2 and this is obviously Phase 1."
The first time these two teams faced off earlier in the year, Spring Grove got the better of Dallastown, 5-2. Since then, however, the Wildcats (12-2 overall, 11-1 Division I) have now reeled off eight consecutive wins, including seven in league play. Kinneman admitted that the previous few days were difficult on his team. It was hard having such a long layoff at this point in the season, especially with the team playing its best baseball. Despite the string of days with rainy weather, the Wildcats did get some practice in on the field this week, which kept them sharp heading into the rematch with the Rockets (7-10, 7-5).
Staying patient: Early in the contest, Dallastown was forced to stay patient at the plate while Spring Grove starter Jon Sager struggled with his command. Whether it was mechanics or wet baseballs, he walked six batters in the first three innings, yet thanks to a couple timely strikeouts and a nice double play that he started, Sager managed to get through the first three frames only down 1-0.
However, he expended a lot of pitches in those innings and finally started to hit the wall in the fourth and fifth innings. Nick Parker got the Wildcats' their first hit of the contest with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, driving in Eric Morrison to make it 2-0. Then, in the fifth inning, Dallastown finally broke it open.
Brandon White roped a two-run double to make it 4-0 with just one out in the fifth, which was then followed by an RBI single by No. 9 hitter Tracy Carr and then a two-run single by Parker to make it 7-0. Sager wouldn't last to see the end of the frame, on the hook for allowing six runs, on five hits, eight walks and four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Ethan Zorbush relieved him, surrendering three hits and the seventh run before finally getting the last out of the inning.
"Certainly, after the first inning or two, I think our hitters realized they had to be patient up there and try to make him work a little bit and wait to get their pitch," Kinneman said. "But, I think that's one of the evolutions I've seen with my guys (from) early in the season. In fact, the first game against Spring Grove, we did it against Matt Brooks and we were ultra, ultra aggressive and didn't try to work some at-bats to try and get some counts in our favor, and I think our guys are really doing a good job of that toward that back half of this year."
The offense was plenty for Wildcats' starter Riley Hamberger, who again proved why he's not just the team's ace, but one of the top pitchers in the league.
He tossed a complete game, allowing four hits and one walk, while striking out three and needing just 80 pitches to do it. In three separate innings, he threw fewer than seven pitches, twice needing just six pitches to retire the Rockets in order.
Offensively, Parker finished with three RBIs, while White had two. Every Dallastown starter reached base at least once.
Dallastown won't have to wait long to clinch the division title outright, when it travels to New Oxford on Friday (weather permitting) with a chance to sew up the division.
York Suburban 5, Littlestown 1: At Suburban, Brendon Delridge pitched a complete-game four-hitter to hurl the Trojans to victory. He struck out seven and walked four. Thomas Merkle, Ryan Day and Brendan Stump each had two hits for the winners. Stump scored two runs from the No. 9 hole.
York Tech 5, Hanover 4: At Spry, the Spartans rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the sixth to steal a win away from the Nighthawks. Tech trailed 3-0 before scoring twice in the fifth and then scored the eventual game-winning run in the sixth. Nathan Chronister picked up the win for the Spartans, while Luke Greisler roped a double. Kyle Krout struck out three Tech hitters for Hanover.
Red Lion 4, Central York 3 (8 innings): At Red Lion, the Lions (9-5 overall, 7-4 in the division) still have a chance to share the Y-A League Division I title with Dallastown thanks to their extra-inning win over the Panthers. Roger Shultz doubled for the Lions, while Kody Allen tripled. Beau Burris pitched seven strong innings for Central, but took the no-decision, striking out three.
Fairfield 5, York Catholic 4: At Fairfield, in a key York-Adams Division IV contest, the Green Knights came out victorious. First-place York Catholic fell to 9-7 overall and 9-4 in the division. Fairfield improved to 9-5 and 8-5. Fairfield scored two runs to rally for the win in the bottom of the seventh, capped by a walkoff hit from Darian Mort. A two-run single from Nick DeMarco had given the Irish a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh.
Christian School of York 13, Mt. Calvary Christian 3: At York, CSY rolled to an easy win, behind a complete-game effort from Anthony Torreullas, who had 11 strikeouts and one walk. Ben Bills and Matt Taylor doubled for the winners, who improved to 10-1 on the season.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com