Senior catcher key piece to Wildcats' playoff run. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
The state playoff drive isn't tailing off in early June. If anything, it's just picking up steam.
The Dallastown and West York baseball teams take the field Thursday in the PIAA quarterfinals. Wins puts each contender one step closer to state supremacy.
Here's a look at their upcoming matchups:
Dallastown vs. St. Joe's Prep, 6:30 p.m. at Muhlenberg H.S.
To put it succinctly, Dallastown is red hot.
The Wildcats, winners of 18 straight and owners of a 21-4 record, have shown no signs of slowing down.
In Monday's 8-1 first-round victory over Hatboro-Horsham, Dallastown received standout pitching from Nick Parker, solid defense across the board and got offense from one-through-nine in the batting order.
That's a natural winning recipe, and Dallastown has been doing just that over the past two months.
"We've obviously been playing well for a long stretch," head coach Greg Kinneman said. "You want your team to be peaking at the right time, and playoff time is the right time to do it. It's a pleasure as a coach to watch your guys grow. And we have all the right pieces in all the right places right now."
While Parker has shined in his last two outings, it's indicative of the team's pitching staff as a whole. Fellow starter Alex Weakland has been a bulldog in his own right, and Kinneman said when times are tough they can turn to Jake Gates and Michael Carr to provide relief. It just hasn't gotten to that point in recent weeks.
"This time of year, you need quality starting pitching. And we've gotten that from Parker and Weakland," Kinneman said. "We have confidence in the guys behind them, too."
Kinneman said St. Joseph's Prep has some dangerous hitters in its lineup and appears to be a good defensive team.
"For me, it's down to the final eight. I would say there's no weak team," senior shortstop and leadoff hitter Tye Golden said. "It comes down to who can execute the best, play their game the best."
Can the Wildcats keep their win streak alive three more games?
"This is the most fun I've had playing baseball in my high school career," said senior second baseman Joe Capobianco. "We just know once we get on the field, we're going to win. We're just confident when we step off the bus."
West York vs. Dallas, 4:30 p.m. at Walter Stump Stadium in Pine Grove
For West York, being on a state playoff run is certainly not uncharted territory.
After all, the Bulldogs won back-to-back Class 3A titles in 2012 and 2013. And they're currently in the midst of another PIAA tournament surge.
The team entered the District 3 tournament as the No. 10 seed — the last team to qualify for the Class 4A competition. West York has gone on to win four of five games, however, with the one loss being a 5-4, extra-inning heartbreaker to Kennard-Dale in the District 3 semifinals.
They then rebounded to beat West Perry in the District 3 third-place game to qualify for states. The Bulldogs opened the PIAA tournament with a 7-3 win over Bonner-Pendergrast.
"We might be overlooked, or undervalued, but we also know if we play our best baseball, we would be OK," head coach Scott Erickson said. "These last five games, outside of when we needed two outs to beat Kennard-Dale, we've played great."
All the while, West York is doing it with a fairly young team. Erickson and the coaching staff is in just their second year with the program. The team also has just one impact senior — albeit he's an all-world player for the program. Zach Gettys shuts down the opposition seemingly every time he takes the mound, and he hit over .400 for the Bulldogs throughout the season at the top of the batting order.
After that, however, the team has a core of underclassmen.
Juniors Robbie Bertuccio, Colton Kubicki and Anthony Kahley are all key contributors for the squad. Ditto for sophomores Justin Wetzel and Trent Ketterman.
And Erickson pointed out that juniors Zion Neuman, Eli Bentzel and Jacob Mease have all stepped up during the team's playoff drive.
While none of the current players were on the roster the last time the Bulldogs won a state title, Kahley said that championship mentality remains part of the program's fabric.
"I think all of us have been around it. I remember when the 2012 and 2013 teams were doing it then, we were all in intramural ball, I remember we would take games off and watch them play," Kahley said.
"We're not unfamiliar with what they set. We've been around that. It's definitely in the atmosphere and expected. I think those teams set the tone."
While the Bulldogs hold a 14-11 overall record, Dallas comes into Thursday's Class 4A quarterfinals contest with an 11-7 mark.
Erickson pointed out that Dallas, winners of nine straight, is a hot team at the moment but also believes his squad can mix it up with anyone.
"We like our chances any time we go out on the field," Erickson said. "We just need to play West York baseball. We do that, we have a chance to win any game."