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YAIAA baseball championship preview: Eastern York playing for District 3 life, YAIAA title

Eastern York's baseball players and coaches spent Saturday afternoon preparing a ham dinner. The fundraiser is a necessity so the Golden Knights can pay for a camp at Jason Aspito's Backyard University in Red Lion.

They attended earlier this year, and it paid in the form of Eastern's first division championship since 1998. The Knights (13-5) are now in the YAIAA baseball finals for the first time in two decades and will play West York (14-5) on 5 p.m. Tuesday at Spring Grove High School.

"It's a great feeling and one we haven't had here in a long time," Eastern coach Blaine Garner said Friday after a 2-0 win against Delone Catholic in a semifinal.

But first, Garner's gang must worry about a non-league foe Monday in Susquenita. Such a game could be overlooked with a league title on the line 24 hours later, but this one deserves close attention if Eastern is to qualify for the District 3 Class AAA tournament.

The Knights sit in 15th place, clinging to one of the last spots. Should they make it, they could be a tough out with the promising pitching combination of Colby Shimmel and Brandon Knarr. Shimmel is still a junior right-hander, while Knarr is a sophomore lefty — and he struck out 18 in Eastern's 2-0 win Friday vs. Delone.

West York coach Roger Czerwinski knows what a strong pitcher can do. He leaned on Kaden Hepler in 2012 during the Bulldogs' run to the first of two straight state championships.

He called Eastern "scary" and pointed to the Bulldogs' first-round district loss last year as proof of how quickly it can all end. West York entered as the top seed, looking to continue its two-year run. Instead, the Bulldogs dropped two straight games, including the YAIAA tournament and district opener.

"I honestly still believe they have a sour taste in their mouths, going out in the first round," Czerwinski said.

He has six seniors back from last year. Their experience became vital after a 1-3 week dropped the Bulldogs, who are now third in the district rankings. West York has built a reputation for piecing together late rallies and improbable hits, but Czerwinski thought his team might struggle offensively entering this season. He recalled errors that compounded that weakness during that recent 1-3 week.

"We gave up 27 runs," he said. "Twenty-one were either by an error, walk or hit batsman. When that happens, it puts us at a disadvantage."

Recent games back that up. To start last week, West York eked out a 2-1 win vs. Northeastern despite its bats producing just one hit. A high-scoring game the next day at Daniel Boone resulted in a 10-6 loss, but Friday's league semifinal produced relief. Nick Traettino struck out nine, overcame a rolled ankle and finished a complete-game victory, 3-2, against Spring Grove.

West York rallied with runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings.

"That comes from the captains and seniors," Czerwinski said. "You can hear them all game long. It might be 0-2, but we're looking for a pitch."

The younger Eastern squad fits a similar build. Garner has seen his team go up five, give up five and hold off Gettysburg. He's also seen it nearly pull off a comeback from a 9-1 deficit vs. Bermudian Springs.

"With this team, as young as they are, they don't know when to stop," Garner said. "It's exciting to watch these kids battle from the first to last inning."

Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.

Eastern York (13-5) vs. West York (14-5)

When: 5 p.m., Tuesday

Where: Spring Grove

How they got here: West York def. Spring Grove, 3-2. Eastern York def. Delone Catholic, 2-0.

Previous meeting: Did not play.

Projected lineups

Eastern York

Bobby Hedrick, sr., CF

Mitchel Winter, LF

Colby Shimmel, jr., P/3B

Matt Taylor, jr., C

Brandon Knarr, so., P/1B

Kyle Billet, sr., 1B/3B

Wyatt Smith, so., DH

Drake Renn, so., 2B

Brandyn Fry, jr., SS

* Taten Tyson, sr., RF

West York

Sam Eyler, sr., RF

Cash Gladfelter, sr., SS/P

Logan Stover, sr., 1B/P

Brett Kinneman, sr., CF/P

Andrew Copeland, sr., 3B/2B/SS

Tyler Seiffert, jr,. DH

Nick Traettino, sr., 3B/P

Brandon Sheffer, jr., 2B/C

Colton Kubicki, fr., LF

*Anthony Kahley, fr., C

*denotes flex position for designated hitter.