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Spring forecast: Baseball

The attention might be on West York. How could it not be? The Bulldogs became the latest YAIAA school to win a PIAA championship, joining Northeastern and Bermudian Springs in the prestigious club.

Yes, the Bulldogs graduated a lot of talent. No, that doesn't mean they are depleted of talent. Far from it.

West York should again be the frontrunner in Division II, but could receive some tough competition from improved clubs at Northeastern, New Oxford and Kennard-Dale.

Here's a look at all of the YAIAA teams entering this season:

Power rankings

1. Spring Grove

2. West York

3. Northeastern

4. Littlestown

5. Delone Catholic

Division I breakdown

• Central York (8-11, 6-8) will need to improve its hitting as the season progresses if it hopes to get past .500 and contend. Two players that could help the Panthers do that are first baseman Jordan Chacanias and Dan Sepic, a pitcher and shortstop.

• Dallastown (15-6, 11-3) brings back junior leadoff hitter Robert Catchings to go with Matt Attig and Zach Luman at the heart of its lineup. If the Wildcats can get consistent pitchings, they should be a contender to defend their division crown.

• South Western (14-8, 9-5) will lean on ace Parker Bean, but must find a second and third starter behind him. Candidates include seniors Chris Mills, Bishop Elder and Brandon Utz.

• Red Lion (8-10, 6-8) has Scott Rissler back from last season's team, which enjoyed the new turf at Horn Field for the first time.

• Spring Grove (13-7, 11-4) looks like the favorites, entering the season with eight returning starters and its entire pitching staff. Of those pitchers, senior Trevor Troxel had a 1.98 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 48 innings last season. Levi Krause, who also plays first and third, had a 3.00 ERA while offensively hitting .333 with 20 RBIs. Dalton Hoiles, who will primarily be used at catcher and third base, hit .367 last year.

Division II breakdown

• Dover (8-11, 5-9) returns all-star DH Mitch Slater, who hit .361 with a .458 on-base percentage, and Grant Hoover.

• Kennard-Dale (5-12, 3-10) could be much improved from a season ago. The Rams return all-stars Dan Hare at shortstop and Jason Cooper at second base. Their strengths don't end at the middle infield, either. Junior outfielder Collin Crowell hit .406 last year.

• New Oxford (10-10, 6-8) went through an injury-filled 2012. The Colonials were still a .500 club and return junior outfielder/pitcher Conrad Miller and infielder/pitcher Cody Pieper, also a junior.

• Northeastern (12-7, 8-6) has senior pitchers Jesse Sargen, a shortstop, and Nick Yinger, an outfielder, but coach Don Kauffman cautioned the Bobcats are young after their half-dozen returning starters. Juniors Jordan Ely (pitcher/outfielder), Steve Shimkus (catcher/pitcher) and Grant Myers (first baseman), plus sophomore infielder Nick Sprenkle, also are back.

• West York (24-4, 11-3) comes off its Class AAA state championship run with enough returning pieces to make opposing coaches envious. Brett Kinneman, like he did as the football team's quarterback, will take on the role of staff ace for the graduated Kaden Hepler, who's now at Winthrop. Kinneman, who also plays first base, was an all-state selection at that position. He hit .404 with 22 runs, 32 RBIs, 10 steals and three home runs. On the mound he was 4-3 with a 2.05 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 51 innings. Speedy senior outfielder Brandon Rauhausers (31 steals) also returns with juniors Chase James (outfielder who hit .390) and Carson Fries (pitcher/third baseman who hit .349 with 23 RBIs).

Division III breakdown

• Bermudian Springs (11-7, 10-4) enters the season with a new coach and having graduated player of the year Alex Emlet, along with first-team all-star shortstop Joe Dennison. The Eagles' nest isn't empty, though. Clayton Hoff hit .367 and was a solid pitcher as a freshman behind Emlet.

• Eastern York (11-7, 9-5) returns five starters and has a pitching staff that has earned the confidence of coach Blaine Garner. The Golden Knights are junior-laden with Terry Godfrey, Dalton Renn and Thomas Taylor, three of those pitchers who also will see time around the field. Taylor, a middle infielder, batted a team-high .387 last season. Catcher Clayton Miller had a .483 on-base percentage.

• Littlestown (14-8, 11-3) looks to be in great shape with senior all-stars Ryan Kehr back on the mound and Logan Mummert behind the plate. The Bolts also have Kai Hess back for his senior year in the outfield. Hess hit .391 last season, while Mummert posted a .422 average. Kehr struck out 48 and had a 1.71 ERA in 45 innings.

• Susquehannock (7-12, 6-8) should have speed to burn for first-year coach Tim Hare. The Warriors have junior outfielder Sammy Miller, who hit .464 with 23 RBIs. Junior pitcher Josh Houser is back after missing most of 2012 because of injury.

• York Suburban (5-14, 4-10) got some power from outfielder A.J. Hammond last season, and will hope to get it again entering his senior year.

Division IV breakdown

• Biglerville (12-8, 10-4) returns Zack Sheets, a junior pitcher who can play in both the infield and outfield. Junior Koby Griest and senior Mike Borth also return for the Canners, who should be a stronger hitting team.

• Delone Catholic (19-6, 12-3) made it to the Class AA district semifinals last year and has Brett Smith for one more season at shortstop and pitcher. All-star pitcher Austin Buckley and third baseman Sam Stephan also return for their senior seasons with Smith.

• Fairfield (2-11, 2-11) has Derrick Whalen back, as the Green Knights look to improve in Division IV.

• Hanover (4-13, 3-12) has 10 lettermen back, including senior catcher Spencer Durika, and its entire pitching staff. That staff should be anchored by senior Brandon Etzler, who will play in the infield when he's not on the mound.

• York County Tech (10-10, 7-8) will be young with only three experienced seniors, but the Spartans have seven players back overall from last year. Two of those seniors are pitcher/outfielder Cyrus Tome and second baseman/outfielder Hunter Weibley. Junior shortstop Derrick Smith should help Weibley give the Spartans a strong middle infield.

• York Catholic (9-11, 6-9) should have a strong pitching staff for third-year coach Joe Gurreri, who also has junior outfielder Clint Bohn back in his lineup.

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