MUHLENBERG — There's something special about this year's Dallastown High School baseball team.
Perhaps a better word might be freaky.
Whatever the correct term, there's no doubting the success the Wildcats have enjoyed on the field.
Winners of 18 straight games heading into Thursday evening's PIAA Class 6-A quarterfinal contest against St. Joseph's Prep at Muhlenberg High School, the 'Wildcats have been freaky good lately.
They needed to be against the Hawks. Despite tallying just two hits — one of which was an infield single — the District 3 champs were able to plate five runs. That was plenty for sophomore starter Alex Weakland, who held Prep to just one run and six hits over 5 2/3 innings to pick up the win in a 5-1 victory.
Dallastown (22-4) moves to the PIAA 6-A semifinal Monday against District 6 champion State College, which defeated Penn Manor 3-1 Thursday, at a time and location to be determined.
"We're rolling right now," said Weakland, who was constantly surrounded by several of his teammates during his postgame interview.
There was never any doubt in coach Greg Kinneman's mind about handing the ball to a young player in the season's biggest game to date. While Weakland is just a sophomore, he handles himself with the maturity of a much-older player.
That was clear on the mound and in the dugout after the game. Despite teammates messing around with him while he was answering questions, Weakland was unfazed. That is exactly something the Hawks discovered about Weakland on the mound whenever they mounted even a hint of a rally. The right-hander scattered four hits while pitching a shutout into the sixth inning before Prep finally broke through with a two-out double followed by a single that ended his night.
"Maturity-wise, he's not a sophomore," Kinneman said. "Not a whole lot gets to him. And not even just the moment of a state playoff game, but even when we get late into a game as well."
Weakland received a lot of help early on. Prep starter James Gosweiler struggled with his command. After getting Tye Golden on a grounder to start the game, Gosweiler walked four straight batters to force in a run. A grounder to second plated another before a wild pitch allowed a third run to score without the benefit of a single hit.
While Prep has a potent lineup that includes the son of former Baltimore Oriole Jeff Manto, the Hawks were never able to seize control. After getting their only run in the sixth, Kinneman turned the ball over to closer Michael Carr to close out the victory. Carr struck out the final batter to end the sixth before the Wildcats plated two more insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Carr then got the final three outs in the seventh to earn the save.
For Carr, who has grown to love closing out Dallastown games, it was just a bit of pure excitement to be handed the ball with so much on the line.
"I'm used to it," said Carr, who was given a lot of the same attention by his teammates during his interview. "That's what I do."
Now the Wildcats are just two wins shy of the program's first-ever state title.
"We don't know a whole of a lot yet about them," Kinneman said of State College (13-10). "We did have someone out there scouting the game and we'll take the scouting report and put something together for our guys for Monday."
Bryant Holtzapple and Peter Capobianco collected Dallastown's hits.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.