Dallastown, Kennard-Dale look to track down district titles
Rams get late rally, extra-inning win over West York in district semifinals. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
The Dallastown Wildcats and Kennard-Dale Rams are set to play for baseball district championships on Thursday.
Here's a look at how the two teams' got to this point, and their upcoming matchups:
District 3 Class 4A championship
No. 6 Kennard-Dale vs. No. 5 East Pennsboro, at Northern York High School (6 p.m.)
The Rams' magical season continues.
After going 25-60 combined over the previous five years, the Rams have an 18-3 record this season. They narrowly missed out on a YAIAA Division III championship and are now playing for a district title.
Blake Knecht, who took over the program two years ago, said the first thing him and his staff did was instill a workman-like approach throughout the roster.
"We have the talent, we have the ability, but we need to change the work ethic. And that’s the No. 1 thing we did," Knecht said.
“We’ve had one heckuva run. I think we’ve definitely exceeded our expectations from the beginning of the year. I think at the end of the day, they’re just having fun playing baseball.”
The fun continued Tuesday with a 5-4, extra-innings district semifinals win over No. 10 West York.
Kennard-Dale trailed 4-0 entering the seventh and final inning, but battled back against the Bulldogs' relief corps.
No. 3 and 4 hitters Garrett Lowe and Ben Stewart delivered key RBI base hits as the Rams tied the score in the seventh. Ben Lowe then came through with the game-winning base hit in the eighth.
But it was also key role players that came through for Kennard-Dale.
Reliever Sean Fletcher entered during the fifth inning and held West York at bay, eventually picking up the win on the mound.
“For him to come in, in that position. You’re down four runs, I guess you have nothing to lose. But you just got to come through," Knecht said. "He led us back in this game. Put zeros up at the end.”
In the bottom of the inning, freshman Max Cooper, in his first career varsity at-bat, drew a walk, stole second base and then came in to score the winning run on Ben Lowe's RBI base hit.
“He’s one of our favorite freshmen. Just the personality he shows. He brings a good attitude every day," Lowe said. "It was awesome to see him get his, really first varsity experience. To come through like that, that is huge.”
The Rams enter Thursday's game with an ace in their back pocket. The 6-foot-2 Stewart, who went 7-1 this season with a 0.94 ERA and 32 strikeouts, didn't take the mound in the semifinals, meaning he'll be available to pitch with a district title on the line.
"We have Ben Stewart on the hump for the championship game," Knecht said. "So we’re in a good position.”
East Pennsboro reached the title round by beating No. 4 James Buchanon (3-2 final score) and No. 9 West Perry (4-2).
District 3 Class 6A championship
Wildcats down Gettysburg to take home league title -- again. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
No. 2 Dallastown vs. No. 1 Governor Mifflin atFirstEnergy Stadium in Reading (7 p.m.)
The Wildcats are an elite team, a talent-laden squad and winners of 16 straight games.
As if that's not enough, Dallastown got another big boost during its 3-0 district semifinals win over Penn Manor. Nick Parker, who missed the majority of the year with an arm injury, pitched his best game of the season, firing a complete-game three-hitter.
The win not only placed Dallastown in the district title game, it also clinched a PIAA tournament berth for the program.
“In the position we’re in right now, to get Nick Parker back to add to the pitching staff, to Alex Weakland, to Jake Gates, to Michael Carr. To add to those three guys is huge for us,” head coach Greg Kinneman said.
The Wildcats are still looking to climb the ladder under their second-year head coach, however. The next check point is winning the first district title in program history.
"It’s something we’ve all dreamed of and something I’ve aspired to do since I was young," senior Tye Golden said. "Especially with it being something we’ve never done at Dallastown.”
Tuesday's win gave the Wildcats an extra day to rest and prepare, something Kinneman said would benefit the team in its championship drive.
Dallastown played Governor Mifflin earlier this season, falling 5-4 on April 4. The Wildcats were a drastically different team then, however, with Parker injured and Alex Weakland yet to emerge as a front-line contributor on the pitching staff.
“We played really well that night," Kinneman said, hearkening back to the early-season contest. "We let it kind of leak away late in the game. It was a really well-played baseball game.”
Governor Mifflin reached the title round by beating No. 8 Central Dauphin (1-0 final score in 15 innings) and No.4 Warwick (4-2).