The Dallastown and Spring Grove baseball teams have been two of the stronger York-Adams League programs in recent years.
Both teams, however, have endured slow starts in 2017, making Monday's game between the two pivotal, considering the season is just 2 1/2 weeks old. The Wildcats entered at 1-2, while the Rockets were 2-3. A victory over a Division I rival could be exactly what the winner needed to kick-start its season, while a loss would just prolong a tough start for the loser.
It was Dallastown, however, that got the jolt it needed, coming away with a convincing 8-3 win at home to get back to .500. Spring Grove fell to 2-4.
"You never want a slow start, so obviously an early-season Division I game with a team in our division is important," Wildcats head coach Greg Kinneman said.
Monday's win was the first time since the team's opener that everything came together for Dallastown. It got a strong performance on the mound by Jake Gates, while the offense was balanced throughout the order.
The big spark for the Wildcats came in the bottom of the fourth. After Dallastown leveled the game at 1-1 in the third inning, the offense finally got to Rockets' starter Logan Miller, scoring four times in the frame to build a 5-1 cushion. No. 8 hitter Zach Ness got things going in the frame with a two-run single to break the deadlock. A pair of runs scored later in the inning on a sac fly and then a throwing error.
That was only the beginning for the Wildcats. They put up three more runs in the next inning to really open up the game and give Gates plenty of run support. Even when Spring Grove cut into the lead in the top of the sixth with two runs, Gates felt comfortable on the mound and confident in his defense.
"Any day, really, that I can throw, with the defense that I have behind me, it honestly makes things easier on my part," Gates said. "...This was a pretty big one for us coming into it. Honestly, we were just looking for something positive and we were just coming out and having fun."
After Gates gave up a run in the top of the first, he settled in and was dominant. He didn't run into any trouble until the sixth. He needed just 87 pitches to toss a complete game, allowing three earned runs on seven hits, with a walk and three strikeouts.
While Gates stole the show on the hill for Dallastown, Ness was the star on offense for the Wildcats, collecting two hits and driving in three runs, while scoring three runs. It's that type of balance throughout the order that Kinneman hopes to see more of from his lineup.
"I think we're pretty balanced one through nine and I have confidence in all of our guys," Kinneman said. "Whether they're hitting in the three hole or hitting in the eight or nine hole, they're there for a reason and I think they can be big contributors throughout the year."
The Rockets will hope to replicate that same parity throughout its order moving forward. In Monday's loss, aside from getting a pair of doubles from No. 3 hitter Jon Sager and two RBIs from No. 4 man Derek Hoiles, Spring Grove struggled to put together a big inning against Gates.
"We gotta get guys on base early in innings so we can make things happen," Rockets' head coach Kevin Stiffler said. "We just gotta make routine plays — catch the baseball, throw the baseball. We're just not doing some of those things today that hurt us."
Eastern York 3, Littlestown 0: At Littlestown, Brandon Knarr continued his dominant start to the 2017 season. The Golden Knights' left-hander struck out 17 over 6 2/3 one-hit inings, walking three. For the season, in three outings, he's struck out 46 and hasn't allowed a run. Tyler Morgan had two hits and an RBI for Eastern.
Susquehannock 3, Dover 2 (8 Innings): At Glen Rock, Joshua Bobbitt led the Warriors with a double and two RBIs. Bobbitt also started the game on the mound and threw five innings, allowing two runs and striking out seven. He walked four and allowed three hits in a no decision. Conor Miller threw three shutout innings in relief to pick up the win. For Dover, Will Fetrow doubled with one RBI, while teammate Alan Hansel doubled while also starting on the mound, striking out five, walking three and allowing three hits in five innings.
York Catholic 4, Biglerville 1: At Biglerville, Matt Knauer pitched six innings of three-hit ball to get the win, striking out seven and walking two. Will Catterall pitched a scoreless seventh for the save. Catterall also had two hits and an RBI, while Dillon Hippensteel had two hits and a run scored.
West York 5, Northeastern 4: At West York, the Bulldogs held off a seventh-inning rally by the Bobcats to earn the victory. Corey Wise had a three-hit game for the Bulldogs, including the game’s only extra-base hit, a double, while Gabe Allen had two RBIs. Josh Rich had two RBIs to lead Northeastern.
York Tech 2, Delone Catholic 1: At McSherrystown, Luke Greisler led the Spartans, starting the game on the mound and throwing six innings, while striking out eight and walking none to pick up the win. He also went 1 for 1 at the plate with two walks. Also for Tech, Nathan Chronister went 3 for 4 with one run scored and threw the final inning on the mound, striking out the side to secure the victory. Tyler Smith went 2 for 3 for Tech, while Camden Schanberger doubled with one run scored.
Christian School of York 12, Carson Long 2: Ben Bills went 3 for 3 with two doubles, a triple and five RBIs to pace CSY. He also scored two runs scored.
Gettysburg 13, York Suburban 9: At Suburban, Logan Carbaugh led the Warriors by going 2 for 4, including a double and four RBIs. For the Trojans, Brendan Stump went 2 for 4 with one run and one RBI, Trey Pridgen went 2 for 4 with one run and one RBI and Collin Slenker and Carson Holsinger each doubled.
Bermudian Springs 2, Kennard-Dale 1: At York Springs, Ben Stewart had two hits for the Rams, while Sean Fletcher pitched two scoreless innings in relief.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.