In the three days between Dallastown's PIAA Class 6-A semifinal win on Monday and Friday's state championship game, Wildcats' head coach Greg Kinneman admitted that there was little for his baseball team to improve on.
It wasn't a cocky statement, meant to indicate that his team was too good to get better, although with the way Dallastown has played over the last several weeks, it's hard to imagine the team could actually improve.
Instead, Kinneman's remarks reflected a sentiment that, at this point in the year, if the Wildcats don't possess the necessary ingredients to become state champions, three days of practice won't enhance those chances.
So, this week, it's all about staying sharp and not letting the idea of the biggest game in program history overwhelm the players.
"We're just going to do what we always do," Kinneman said following Monday's win over State College. "...We're at the point in the season where, obviously we're playing for a state championship, but I don't know if we need three straight days of practice. We're in a maintenance point in the season right now. We gotta get our at-bats, field some ground balls and work on some things, and obviously we'll find out more about Pennsbury."
Stacking up: Both the Falcons (21-6) and Dallastown (23-4) enter with strong records, but there's no denying that the Wildcats appear to be the hotter of the two sides. Winners of 20 consecutive games, Dallastown hasn't lost in more than two months, with its last defeat coming on April 10 against rival Red Lion.
Pennsbury, however, is on a roll of its own. The Falcons have won 12 games in a row, dating back to a May 4 loss to Souderton. The two teams are nearly identical, defensively, with the Wildcats having allowed just 64 runs this season, just one fewer than Pennsbury's 65. That's good for 2.37 runs allowed per game for Dallastown and 2.41 for the the Falcons.
Where the Wildcats might hold the edge, though, is on offense. Dallastown's bats have put up more than six runs per game this season and have only gotten stronger in the postseason. In the Wildcats' six games in District 3 and PIAA play, they've scored 42 runs, good for exactly seven a game.
Meanwhile, Pennsbury's offense is scoring slightly less than five runs per game and has plated 134 runs this year. The Falcons' offense, however, can't be discounted. They advanced to Friday's championship contest by virtue of a 12-0 mercy-rule win in five innings over Liberty.
Historic game: When Dallastown takes the field at Penn State on Friday afternoon, it'll have a chance to become just the second team in school history to win a state title. The other was the 2004 boys' tennis team.
However, York-Adams League baseball has had success winning state gold in past years. Most recently, West York won back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013 in 3-A when there were still only four classes in baseball. In 2010, Bermudian Springs captured the 2-A state title and Northeastern was Class 2-A state champions in 2004 when there were only three classifications.
No school from the local league, however, has ever won a state baseball title in the PIAA's largest classification. Dallastown could change that fact.
Weakland expected to start: The pitching staff of the Wildcats has grabbed much of the attention during the team's run because of its sheer dominance of opponents.
Nick Parker and Alex Weakland have carried the bulk of the load during the postseason, with the two alternating starts since districts began. Parker spun the latest gem for Dallastown on Monday, allowing just one earned run on one hit in a complete-game performance vs. State College.
With three days off between that start and Friday's championship game, Parker is eligible to start the game, but both Kinneman and Parker don't see a reason to switch up the rotation now. The Wildcats are planning to throw the sophomore Weakland on Friday, giving Kinneman plenty of options in relief of Weakland, with guys such as Parker, senior Jake Gates and go-to reliever Michael Carr all eligible to pitch.
"He's been throwing the ball well and there's no need to change that up," Parker said after Monday's win. "If I need to come in later in the game, there'd be no problem with that."
Opposing Weakland for Pennsbury could be Chestnut Hill College recruit Billy Bethel. He's 4-0 in the postseason and hasn't allowed an earned run in two state tournament wins. Like Parker, Bethel pitched in Monday's win, so he is eligible to start on Friday.
Friday's game is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com