Some early candidates for district tournament MVPs may be the guys keeping the fields intact.
Teams like Berwick and Lakeland were able to get their semifinal games in as scheduled on Thursday, giving them a slight but still meaningful advantage in today’s District 2 championship quadruple-header at PNC Field.
Both teams will be able to have their full pitching staffs available with the title on the line while their opponents — Abington Heights in 3A and Hanover Area in 2A — were forced to play into the weekend because of lousy weather. Berwick coach Brian Pinterich in particular credited his staff for repairing a field that had been waterlogged in the morning so it was ready to go in the afternoon.
No such weather worries today. Sunny skies and temperatures brushing 80 are in the forecast for this Memorial Day celebration of local baseball, which features four Wyoming Valley Conference teams facing off against four Lackawanna League teams, beginning at 10 a.m. in Moosic.
CLASS 4A, 10 a.m.
Hazleton Area vs. Delaware Valley
For the first time in five years, the Cougars won’t have to face Scranton in the district tournament. Hazleton Area’s last trip to the district finals came in 2010, the program’s first year under coach Gino Cara.
Scranton won that game and managed to eliminate the Cougars in the playoffs each of the next three seasons. But this year’s lineup looks to be Hazleton’s strongest in that stretch, and the second-seeded Cougars have their eyes set on the state bracket.
Standing in their way are the top-seeded Warriors, who are looking to recapture the magic from their 2006 state championship squad. DelVal knocked off defending champ Wyoming Valley West in the semifinals.
The Cougars have three solid pitchers available to start today after senior Tony Hernandez beat Williamsport in the semis. Penn State recruit Sal Biasi would seem to be the most likely choice. But they also have junior Joe Baran, who threw two innings of relief Friday, and sophomore Dante Biasi as quality options.
Most importantly for the Cougars, the lineup is getting healthier. Baran, both Biasi brothers and catcher Robbie John have all been banged up at various points of the year, but all are healthy at this point.
CLASS A, 1 p.m.
MMI Prep vs. Blue Ridge
The Preppers are already one of the best stories in the district, ending Old Forge’s run of postseason dominance with a 4-1 win in the semifinals. Before today, Old Forge had appeared in seven straight D2 title games, winning six of them.
Instead it’s MMI reaching the big stage, becoming the first WVC squad to play for the Class A crown since Northwest in 2008. The Preppers have made steady progress year-to-year under coach Emmett Thomas, and this will be the highlight of the young program’s history.
With a male enrollment listed at just 60 students, MMI is one of the smallest schools in the state and the smallest in District 2 by far. Today’s opponent, Blue Ridge, is listed at 148, just one shy of the maximum allowed before being bumped up to 2A.
But the Raiders are a surprise story themselves, the fifth seed in a six-team tournament that had to go on the road to beat Forest City and then No. 1 Lackawanna Trail in the semis.
Charlie Karchner was MMI’s top pitcher in the regular season and beat Wyoming Seminary in the quarterfinals. First baseman Alec Andes enters the game as the team’s leading hitter.
CLASS 2A, 4 p.m.
Hanover Area vs. Lakeland
Well, the Hawkeyes have been waiting for this opportunity for awhile. What was an extra 24 hours of waiting?
Heavy rains didn’t allow Hanover Area to finish off its semifinal win over Holy Redeemer until Saturday afternoon in a game that had been postponed Thursday and suspended in the fourth inning on Friday. After falling short in the semifinals each of the last two seasons, however, the Hawks were more than happy to celebrate this time.
Hanover Area went unbeaten in WVC play for the third straight year. In 12 league games, the Hawks hit north of .380 as a team and the pitching staff had a sub-1.00 ERA. Their only loss of any kind this year was in an exhibition against Cardinal O’Hara, a 4A private school near Philadelphia.
But they figure to get a challenge from an upstart Lakeland team. The Chiefs entered the tournament as the No. 10 seed before winning road games at No. 7 Montrose, No. 2 Mountain View and No. 3 Dunmore to reach the finals, including getting a no-hitter by Chris Roche in the quarterfinals.
CLASS 3A, 7 p.m.
Berwick vs. Abington Heights
Six years ago, Berwick’s memorable run to the state title was jump-started by a rout in the district championship in Moosic. The 2014 squad has a long way to go to reach that level, but things have been coming together nicely for the Bulldogs.
The Dawgs have allowed just four runs in their three wins in the tournament, beating Lake-Lehman, North Pocono and Scranton Prep. Jordan DiValerio has appeared on the mound in all three — a combined no-hitter along with Zach Kyttle, a save and a complete-game victory — and would be eligible to throw again tonight.
Slugger Jorden Stout led Berwick in hitting, RBI and extra-base hits in the regular season and is the clean-up man in what has developed into a well-balanced lineup.
This will be a matchup of the last two District 2 squads from any classification to win a state title. Abington Heights won the PIAA 3A championship in 2009, one season after Berwick pulled it off. The Comets are perennially one of the best teams in the region and rallied to beat top-seeded Valley View in nine innings on Sunday.
DISTRICT 2 BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
(District champions advance to states)
CLASS 4A (DISTRICT 2-4 SUBREGIONAL)
Wyoming Valley West 3, Scranton 1
Williamsport 4, Wallenpaupack 1
Delaware Valley 7, Wyoming Valley West 2
Hazleton Area 3, Williamsport 1
Monday, May 26
• No. 2 Hazleton Area (12-4) vs. No. 1 Delaware Valley (11-3) at PNC Field, 10 a.m.
Valley View 17, Western Wayne 2
Coughlin 7, West Scranton 0
North Pocono 11, Honesdale 3
Scranton Prep 9, Crestwood 0
Berwick 9, Lake-Lehman 0
Abington Heights 4, Tunkhannock 0
Pittston Area 7, Wyoming Area 3
Dallas 2, GAR 0
Valley View 3, Pittston Area 2
Scranton Prep 6, Dallas 0
Berwick 3, North Pocono 1
Abington Heights 7, Coughlin 2
Berwick 8, Scranton Prep 3
Abington Heights 6, Valley View 3
Monday, May 26
• No. 3 Berwick (14-4) vs. No. 4 Abington Heights (12-4) at PNC Field, 7 p.m.
Dunmore 10, Carbondale 0
Holy Cross 9, Meyers 1
Lakeland 7, Montrose 4
Northwest 5, Elk Lake 1
Holy Redeemer 6, Mid Valley 1
Nanticoke 5, Riverside 2
Hanover Area 2, Northwest 1
Lakeland 3, Mountain View 2
Dunmore 9, Nanticoke 2
Holy Redeemer 5, Holy Cross 4
Lakeland 10, Dunmore 8
Hanover Area 10, Holy Redeemer 5
Monday, May 26
• No. 1 Hanover Area (14-0) vs. No. 10 Lakeland (7-8) at PNC Field, 4 p.m.
MMI Prep 9, Wyoming Seminary 1
Blue Ridge 8, Forest City 2
MMI Prep 4, Old Forge 1
Blue Ridge 6, Lackawanna Trail 2
Monday, May 26
• No. 3 MMI Prep (8-6) vs. No. 5 Blue Ridge (5-9) at PNC Field, 1 p.m.