Here are some of the top local players taking the field in 2017. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
Who's the divisional favorites? Who are the top area players to watch entering the new year?
We preview the 2017 YAIAA baseball season:
Division I: Dangerous teams follow loaded Wildcats
Many programs would love to have senior catcher Bryant Holtzapple, senior infielder Ty Golden or junior pitcher Nick Parker. The Dallastown Wildcats have all three.
Second-year head coach Greg Kinneman leads the squad, a former West York assistant who has a firm handle on the game. Dallastown, which went 19-4 and won the YAIAA championship last year, appears to be the favorite once again.
“They’re the team to beat. Three Division-I (college) kids. There’s no doubt,” Spring Grove head coach Kevin Stiffler said. “They had a super team last year and bring back a strong core.”
Which other teams can make moves? Funny you should ask.
Spring Grove went 9-6 in league and are more than capable. They’re a well-coached squad with Stiffler calling the shots, and return catcher Derek Hoiles and pitcher John Sager. Don’t overlook the Rockets.
Elsewhere, New Oxford and South Western are young and steady teams that can knock off anyone on any given day.
Red Lion has some talent as well. College-bound pitcher Tyler Burchett looks the part — a 6-foot-5 right-handed junior who throws hard — and the Lions should be able to score some runs.
Central York also has ability. Head coach Mike Valencik said offensively his team should fit the bill. Valencik said a young pitching staff will determine how far the Panthers go this season.
While Valencik agreed that Dallastown is in the preseason driver’s seat, he also pointed to the Wildcats’ 6-4 loss to Gettysburg this week.
“Any given game, you have to be better for two hours,” Valencik said. “That’s all it takes.”
Division II: Where will Bobcats stand?
Northeastern, a power program in recent years, lost 11 seniors from last year’s squad including workhorse pitcher Kody Reeser. Just three starters return to the team.
With that being said, the Bobcats always seem to have talent and solid pitching. Patience could be an early-season theme, but the team could also progress as the year moves along.
Dover was an 8-12 squad last year and could be back in the mix this season. Ditto for Gettysburg, which moves from YAIAA Division III to YAIAA Division II. The Warriors could be a surprise squad in their new location.
West York will also look to take a step forward under second-year head coach Scott Erickson. The Bulldogs were a young team last year and finished the season with a 10-9 record. With that, they return a solid core, and won their season opener against Spring Grove, 7-2.
Erickson said he likes the Bulldogs’ defense up the middle – catcher, second base, shortstop and two outfield spots. He added his club needs to solidify a third starting pitcher and get contributions from the back-end of its bullpen.
“I think that’s big for any team in the county and division. Good, consistent pitching,” Erickson said. “That can help us out, that can help anybody out.”
York Suburban also moved up to Division II this season, one year after going 9-5 in YAIAA Division III.
Division III: Susquehannock could shake up standings
Eastern York won the division last year with an 11-3 league mark and brings back ace left-handed pitcher Brandon Knarr. The senior is a premier player in York County, and will take the mound next year at Notre Dame.
Susquehannock’s move from YAIAA Division II to YAIAA Division III figures to shake up the landscape, perhaps significantly.
The Warriors were a second-place finisher last year in Division II and were Division III champions three years ago. They do lose shortstop Connor Hood, who will play collegiately at Seton Hall, but head coach Tim Hare said the Warriors return the majority of their pitching staff.
"Each game counts in the division. You can't take any team lightly," said Eastern York head coach Blaine Garner. "They have experience but so does our team. They have good players but so do we. It'll be tight."
Bermudian Springs has had some success in past years, yet is coming off a 2-18 campaign. Can the Eagles get back on track?
Ditto for Littlestown, which went 8-10 in 2016.
Kennard-Dale went 4-14 overall last season, but brings back eight starters. Like Susquehannock, the Rams make the move from Division II to Division III this year.
Division IV: Irish back on top?
York Catholic rose to the occasion last year, winning YAIAA Division IV with an 11-9 overall record and an 11-4 mark in league play. The Irish always seem to be in the thick of things, and expect a similar result in 2017.
“I think at the end of the year, we will be right up there at the top, battling it out,” said head coach Joe Gurreri.
Delone Catholic is a consistent contender in the division as well. The Squires held a 9-6 league record last season and could be back in the top-half of the standings in 2017.
Biglerville was a surprise program a season ago, holding a 13-8 overall record and reached the District 3 tournament.
Speaking of surprises, Fairfield also qualified as such, grabbing its first double-digit-win season in program history and knocking off York Catholic in the first round of districts. The Green Knights could very well open eyes again this season.
"We have the same approach year after year with these kids," said Fairfield head coach John Ridge. "We'll be the smaller school, we'll be the underdog. But we're optimistic. We're looking forward to a good season."
Hanover (3-12 league record) and York County Tech (2-13) rounded out last year’s Division IV standings.