For the first time since 2011, the YAIAA championship trophy will go to a team not named Spring Grove or West York.
Eastern York returns to the YAIAA playoffs this season after falling in the title game last year. Dallastown makes its first YAIAA playoff appearance since 2012. York Catholic (2011) and Northeastern (2009) return to the tournament, and each won the title in their last appearances.
So who wins it all this year? The guys on the mound will have a key role in determining that. All four teams boast strong pitching staffs and top-tier aces.
The championship will start at 5 p.m. Wednesday at New Oxford. But first, here's how the semifinals are broken down:
Dallastown vs. Eastern York, 5 p.m. Monday at New Oxford: How about a Riley Hamberger vs. Brandon Knarr or Colby Shimmel duel to kick off the tournament? Hamberger is 6-1 with a 0.92 ERA for Dallastown. He struck out 59 batters and only walked 14 this season. Knarr (Notre Dame commit) and Shimmel have been among the best pitchers in the league for the last two seasons, and Knarr struck out 18 batters in a semifinal in last year's tournament.
The Wildcats have won 10 of their last 11 and haven't given up a run in league play since April 25. They've allowed more than three runs in a game just three times all season.
The Golden Knights have won seven of eight after starting 6-5. Eastern could be playing for more than just the YAIAA title. Victories could help secure a district playoff bid, having entered the week seeded 13th among Class AAA teams. The top 16 teams advance to the District 3 Class AAA tournament, and Eastern finished 19th last season to miss the cut.
Northeastern vs. York Catholic, 5 p.m. Monday at Spring Grove: The Division II regular-season champion Bobcats enter the tourney as perhaps the hottest team in the league. Led by ace Kody Reeser (Towson commit) and a strong, balanced lineup, Northeastern has won 11 of 12 with the only loss coming at Dallastown. The Bobcats have averaged more than eight runs per game over that span.
The good news for York Catholic is that they emerged from the three-team race in Division IV that included Delone Catholic and Biglerville and came away with the division crown.
The bad news for the Fighting Irish is that only four wins came against teams with winning records. The YAIAA tourney will provide tougher competition than York Catholic has seen in the last four or five weeks.
But don't overlook Joe Gurreri's squad. Matt Knauer went 4-1 with a 0.55 ERA and four players — Brenden Kennedy, Dillon Hippensteel, Andrew Polson and Will Catterall — hit above .340. Kennedy is also among the best defensive shortstops in the league and struck out 44 batters in games he pitched.
Elsewhere in YAIAA action...
YAIAA boys' volleyball tournament, Monday and Tuesday at Dallastown: Similar to the way they've dominated the state playoff scene recently, Northeastern has had great success in the YAIAA tourney, winning seven of the last 10 dating back to 2006.
The Bobcats will get a first-round bye after winning the regular-season title and they await the winner of Central York-Dallastown (6 p.m. Monday). Dallastown took Central to five games in April but eventually fell. Hayden Wagner (Central) had 37 kills and 12 digs and Carter Luckenbaugh added 57 assists in the win.
York Suburban will take on Susquehannock on the other side of the bracket with the facing Red Lion in the semifinals. The Trojans swept the Warriors in their only meeting this season.
The championship will start at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Dallastown.
District 3 track and field, Friday and Saturday: The track and field championships start at 2 p.m. Friday at Shippensburg University. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for students. Action resumes at 9 a.m. Saturday.
District 3 boys' and girls' lacrosse playoffs, Tuesday: Six girls teams and five boys teams from the YAIAA qualified for the district tournament. No York-Adams team has ever won the District 3 title, but this year might be the league's best shot. In girls' lacrosse, York Catholic, Kennard-Dale and Susquehannock wrapped up the top three seeds. If the results hold true to the seeding, Kennard-Dale and Susquehannock would meet in the semifinals with the winner potentially facing York Catholic in the title game.
In the boys' bracket, Red Lion will host a game at Horn Field on Tuesday while No. 6 York Catholic and No. 11 Central York meet for a third time in a two-week span.
All first-round games for both boys and girls will be played Tuesday.