PIAA 3A final
Who: Central vs. Lancaster Catholic
When: Today, 1:30 p.m
Where: Penn State’s loquat field in Lubrano Park
TV: Live stream on PCN Select for a fee. For more information, see pentv.com/how-to-watch.
Radio: WTRN-FM 96.9 & 100.7
By Michael Boytim
MARTINSBURG — For a whole year, all the Central baseball team talked about was making it back to the PIAA semifinals to avenge last year’s loss and play for a state championship.
Today at 1:30 p.m. in University Park’s Medlar Field in Lubrano Park, the Scarlet Dragons get that opportunity as they take on District 3 Champion Lancaster Catholic for the PIAA Class 3A title.
“A win would mean a lot” said Central Senior Outfielder Paxton Kling. “We all hoped for it, wished for it and dreamed of it. Last year we lost in the semifinals, so to reach our first championship means a lot. It will be a fun experience.”
Central will play its fifth state championship game in baseball. The Scarlet Dragons are 1-3 in their previous appearances but won the last time they made it in 2017. Lancaster Catholic won the 3A title the very next season, the first in the school’s history.
“Most of them were in the eighth grade, if not freshmen,” Lancaster Catholic coach Steve Remley said. “Knowing that they would be going to Catholic college and growing up near it was a good aspect of them to learn from and set the bar for what they can achieve.”
Of course, many players on this year’s Central team felt the same way about the 2017 Dragons team.
“That’s what we work for every day” said Blade. “It’s not just me. Our guys work hard, from our rookies to our seniors, we get our shirts soaked every day from flying around and working the way Coach Hoenstine wants us to.”
Lancaster Catholic were promoted through the state playoffs by junior left-handed pitcher Noah Zimmerman, who was the winning pitcher in the Crusaders’ 3-0 semifinals win over Neumann-Goretti on Monday. Zimmerman, who has batted 102 in 65• innings this season, reached his legal pitching limit in the seventh inning but is eligible to pitch again today with three full days between games.
“Noah is definitely one of our catalysts on the hill, but we have different weapons that we can use at any time.” said Remley. “Zimmerman has been a top-notch pitcher for us this year, but we have other pitchers that we know we can rely on.”
Central coach AJ Hoenstine said his team will focus on getting to those other pitches as soon as possible.
“Getting him to get deep into counting, fouling two-strike pitches and really getting him to work is going to be crucial.” Hoenstin said. “We have to do everything we can to get the guys on base and put pressure on him and make him think when he’s throwing out of extension. We have been working on that all year.”
If Zimmerman leaves the mound, Lancaster will likely turn to senior Brandon Wingeroth, who along with his brother Nathan is one of the team’s top hitters with a .465 average, 30 RBIs and three homers.
“You look like a real sports team led by the Wingeroth brothers”, Hoenstin said. “We must do a good job of keeping them off bases. They’re pretty tight from top to bottom. Our key is always throwing strikes. We have great confidence in our pitchers. We need them to throw strikes and we’ll make the plays behind them.”
Central likely won’t have his best arm during the regular season, and District 6 playoff senior Jonah Snowberger is available with an elbow injury. Snowberger was able to stay in the lineup as the designated hitter but doubts he’ll serve today.
“Probably not,” said Schneeberger. “But I just want to focus on helping the team win, even if it’s not on the mound. It’s great to still be in the lineup and pain free but even if I hadn’t scored I’d be happy to be on this ride with everyone.
That doesn’t mean Hoenstine isn’t confident about who lands on the mound.
“We’ll see how Snowberger feels, but we have (Devon) Boyles, (Jake) Detwiler and (Ty) Helsel.” Hoenstin said. “We can throw all three of these guys. Devon and Ty have some work to do on Monday so we’ll see how they feel. We’ll probably call Thursday night.”
Like Central, Lancaster Catholic is balanced.
“We have continuity with each other and a good group of guys,” said Remley. “It’s a team. Not just an individual. It takes a team to win and we understand that. We preach this aspect. They are definitely a good team. Your record speaks for itself. I think it will be a good game. We are both two good teams. We have to play a good seven innings to win.”
Kling, Boyles, Snowberger, Helsel and Parker Gregg will all be on the starting lineup and playing their final game for Central.
“It’s really exciting to have one last game with my brothers when our high school career ends,” Said Gregg. “We’ve worked really hard for this and we’re excited.”
Hoenstine believes all of that experience will pay off.
“We’ve talked about not having a lot of close games, but these guys have played close games in other sports and played together in close games with travel teams all over the coast throughout their careers.” Hoenstin said. “I don’t think the big moment will make her think.”
Kling, who is committed to LSU but also likely to be a high draft pick in Major League Baseball’s July draft, agreed.
“It’s just another baseball game” said Blade. “It’s special that I get to play with these guys again, but it’s a game we’ve been playing since we were little. We’re just doing everything we can to play our game and go out and play well.”
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