It’s no secret that the recent stretch of wet weather has wreaked havoc on the area’s spring sports slate.
High school baseball teams are facing an April schedule that will be littered with four-game weeks. With pitch-counts and rest requirements already on the coaches’ minds, Mother Nature’s exploits have placed an even greater premium on pitching depth this season.
One team, however, that appears capable of handling that increased workload is the Dallastown Wildcats. They have the luxury of a slew of capable arms ready to roll.
As a result, head coach Greg Kinneman can take a more day-by-day approach to the looming season, rather than constantly looking ahead.
“We are going to take one game at a time, attack it and try to win that game,” Kinneman said. “Certainly, you have to think a little bit about that. If you’re talking about that fourth game of the week, you’ve got to put yourself in the position to have enough live arms to go out and compete.
“But honestly, at this point, we will stick with our plan and that will be to attack each and every game individually. We’re not going to pull a pitcher and say, ‘well if we pull him now under this count, then we have him again for this day.’”
Behind a trio of standout hurlers, the Wildcats were 23-5 last season. It was a run that saw a 20-game winning streak, as well as York-Adams League and District 3 Class 6-A titles. Dallastown also reached the PIAA Class 6-A state title game, before dropping a heartbreaking 1-0 walk-off decision to Pennsbury.
Alex Weakland: After an incredible sophomore campaign, Alex Weakland provides a battle-tested arm for the Wildcats. Despite his underclass status a season ago, Weakland was handed the ball in some of the biggest moments of the 2017 season.
He first helped the Wildcats capture the District 3 6-A title by using only 62 pitches and surrendering three hits as Dallastown rolled, 11-1, in six innings. And it was Weakland who was on the hill dominating Pennsbury for most of the state title contest before the Wildcats' heartbreaking defeat. He took a perfect game into the fourth inning and a no-hitter into the fifth.
For the season, Weakland finished 8-0, complemented by a trim 0.99 ERA. He registered 51 strikeouts and 15 walks while holding the opposition to a .192 batting average.
“Every game I pitched was a learning experience for me going forward,” Weakland said of his big-game exposure last season. “You look back on them and learn from your mistakes, so hopefully this year is better and I won’t make them again. I’ve gotten stronger and learned the game more — got sharper with my pitches as well.”
Nick Parker: Senior Nick Parker, who has committed to play for NCAA Division I Coastal Carolina, will also be a featured arm for the Wildcats. He wants to shoulder the load in his final season after getting his junior effort off to a late start. Parker missed more than the first month of the season after suffering a broken elbow before the start of the 2017 run.
One of Parker’s gems came in the PIAA 6-A semifinals, where he gave up one hit and one run while going the distance in a 6-1 victory vs. State College. It was Parker’s third straight complete-game victory in the postseason — a stretch that saw him allow just two earned runs on five hits while striking out 15.
Parker finished the year at 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA and 18 strikeouts. He also held the batters he faced to a .115 average.
“I think last year was a great learning experience for all of us,” Parker said. “You always look back to those moments and you know it can always be done. You can always be that much closer to winning, or losing, a game. So now, it’s just keep pushing.”
The Wildcats saw the departures of starter Jake Gates (7-0, 1.64 ERA) and closer Michael Carr (2.95 ERA) to graduation. Helping Dallastown fill those gaps will be the insertion of senior and Messiah commit Ben Writer into the rotation.
Morgan Smith, Peyton Fox, Peter Capobianco and Darren Sciortino were also mentioned by Kinneman as those who can contribute on the hill. The coach also notes the closer role will fill itself as the season goes on, much as it did in 2017 when Carr pitched his way into the role.
New man behind plate: While one end of the Wildcats’ battery seems set, the issue for Dallastown will be filling the void at the other end.
Graduation saw Bryant Holtzapple leave for NCAA Division I George Washington University after an senior season that saw him bat .325 with 22 RBIs and post a slick .994 fielding percentage.
Dallastown looks to junior Julian Bailey to take his place after seeing limited action behind Holtzapple last year.
“We’re confident in Julian. His skill set is very good, he handles our staff well and he’s more than capable of shutting the opposing team’s running game down,” Kinneman said.
Dallastown’s season is slated to start Thursday with a road trip to Hempfield, but whether that contest happens remains to be seen. The lingering effects of a foot of snow one week, followed by days of rain the next, will likely put contests in the coming week in doubt as well.
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org