STROHECKER: Only three York-Adams programs left standing in battle for state gold
It's hard to believe that almost 10 months ago, the 2014-15 high school sports season kicked off with fall sports summer practices.
Now, here we are, almost at the beginning of summer, with only a few select teams left from the York-Adams League competing for state supremacy as participants in PIAA tournaments.
Remaining are the Northeastern boys' volleyball team, which is in the Class AA semifinals, and the Delone Catholic softball team and the Spring Grove baseball team, which both begin state tournament play on Monday.
Each team's path to the state playoffs was different.
The Bobcats are two-time reigning state champs and cruised through every opponent this season, having not lost a set in a regular, best-of-five match. The Squirettes rolled through the District 3-AA softball tournament as the top seed, defeating their three opponents by a combined score of 22-4. And the Rockets clinched a state berth in the Class AAA baseball field by reaching the finals of the District 3 playoffs, before suffering an extra-innings loss in the title game to Donegal.
Still, their goals all remain one in the same — win state gold.
So, here is what each of the three remaining local teams will face the next time they take to the diamond or the court this week.
Northeastern: Words can do little to describe just how dominant the Bobcats have been throughout the course of this season. Having not dropped a set all year, and now back in the AA semifinals, Northeastern simply lived up to the lofty expectations it set for itself by winning the last two state titles.
Thus far, the Bobcats haven't given up more than 16 points in a set in either state match.
Now, awaiting the Bobcats in the semifinal round is Holy Redeemer. Tuesday's match will pit two of the top-four AA ranked teams in Pennsylvania against each other, with Northeastern coming in ranked No. 1 and the Royals No. 4 by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. Much like the Bobcats, Holy Redeemer enters having not dropped a set all tournament. The Royals, the District 2 champion, knocked off District 3 runner-up Lancaster Mennonite on Saturday, 25-20, 25-21, 25-11, to set up the showdown. By comparison, Northeastern beat Lancaster Mennonite in the district title match, 25-17, 25-18, 25-18.
At stake in Tuesday's meeting is a shot at keeping an impressive run alive for Northeastern and a shot at redemption for Holy Redeemer. Should the Bobcats win, they'll play for their third straight state AA championship on Saturday, which would be the program's sixth all time. As for the Royals, they've seen their previous two seasons come to an end at the hands of Northeastern, both in the state semifinals.
Tuesday's match is set for 5:30 p.m. at Exeter Township High School.
Delone Catholic: When the Squirettes hoisted the District 3-AA trophy on Thursday, they became the first York-Adams softball team to win multiple district crowns, ending a 16-year drought between the team's first one in 1999. They also became the first Y-A team to win a district title in softball since South Western won the AAAA championship in 2006.
Delone enters the state tournament boasting an impressive 18-4 record. Like so many strong teams, the Squirettes don't just have one or two players who carry the load, but an entire lineup, regardless of grade. Manager Don Smith's group consists of freshmen all the way to seniors and they all contribute in big ways. It was freshman Marlee Lackey that broke open Thursday's championship game against Kutztown with a bases-clearing double and it was junior pitcher Cassie Rickrode who tossed a complete game to close out the 10-3 victory.
On the other side from Delone on Monday will be District 12 runner-up Philadelphia Academy Charter. Unlike the Squirettes, the Chargers won't have the momentum of winning their district championship game on their side. Instead, PAC begins its state tournament off the heels of a dreadful 13-0 defeat in five innings to Conwell-Egan in its district championship game.
Last year, Delone edged Conwell-Egan 7-6 in nine innings in the Squirettes' state playoff opener.
Tuesday's first-round game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at York College.
Spring Grove: If there was ever a consolation to losing the District 3-AAA title game in extra innings, the state tournament can be just that. The youthful Rockets, who have just one senior, gave up six runs in the top of the eighth inning in Thursday's game against Donegal to lose 11-5.
Still, Spring Grove enters the AAA field as District 3's No. 2 seed with a strong 18-7 record and averaging 5.4 runs of offense per game.
Opposite from Spring Grove on Monday will be Pottstown.
The Crimson Tide are fresh off of winning their first District 11 title since 1998, with a 6-3 win over Blue Mountain. Pottsville is led by a strong core of seniors, Eli Nabholz, Travis Blankenhorn, Ty Painter and Connor Hinchcliffe, who have each made substantial impacts in helping the Crimson Tide reach the state playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons. And, more likely than not, the Rockets will probably have to face Nabholz on the mound, who sports a perfect 10-0 record this season for Pottstown. Blankenhorn, meanwhile, has already committed to Kentucky and is projected as a future Major League Baseball draft pick.
First pitch in Monday's game is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Walter Stump Stadium in Pine Grove.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.