When Major League teams reach the postseason they play best-of-five and best-of-seven series. Have one bad day and things are still fine because there are more games to come, more shots at redemption.
In District 4 high school baseball there is no such luxury. Only in Class AA do two teams advance. It's one and done in every other classification and it is that way in AA until the finalists are determined. Talk about drama.
The following is a breakdown of the three District 4 tournaments. Williamsport will compete in the District 2-4 Class AAAA tournament. The Millionaires (11-8) captured the title last year and have the potential to do so again if they display the form that carried them to a 7-0 start. Williamsport features strong pitching, with Ryan Hostrander and Sadiq Burkholder both throwing well. If the offense gets going anything is possible.
(2 teams, champion advances to states)
Top-seeded Jersey Shore is seeking its second straight district championship and is hoping for the best postseason finish in program history. The 2006 team reached the state quarterfinals and last year's squad lost in the first round to eventual runner-up Tunkhannock. A strong core of good players is back from that team and Jersey Shore captured its fifth league title in six years.
Jersey Shore (16-2-1) has deep pitching, a solid offense and good defense, giving it a shot to make a run if it can get past Milton. Tellef Notevarp went 7-0 with a save and a 1.28 ERA and Travis Eiswerth has been a pleasant surprise, going 4-1 with two saves and a 1.56 ERA. Caleb Barnhart also has pitched well. Colton Potter (.419) is an outstanding shortstop who sparks the offense from the lead-off position while center fielder Blake Musser has three home runs, nine doubles an a team-high 24 RBIs.
The Bulldogs lost both their games by one run on walk-off hits and also have thumped Loyalsock, 12-3, swept Montoursville and ended Central Mountain's undefeated season.
Milton (15-4) was outstanding after starting the season 1-2 and won eight straight games before losing to Jersey Shore, 10-4, a few weeks ago. The Black Panthers, however, also handed Jersey Shore its first league loss, rallying from a three-run, sixth-inning deficit and winning 7-6. Milton also has an effective and deep staff that includes Cody Shaffer (5-2), Mark Artley (5-1) and Bryan Reich (5-1). The offense is dangerous, too, with eight starters back from last year's team, including gifted center fielder Reynaldo Adames who earned Giles Tournament MVP honors Saturday at Montoursville.
Last year, Jersey Shore edged Selinsgrove, 1-0, in a dramatic championship. Expect this year's final to be another outstanding game between two talented and evenly matched teams that could be tough in states.
Projected Final: Jersey Shore 3, Milton 2
(11 teams, top two advance to states)
Loyalsock (18-2) rallied past South Williamsport late to earn the top seed for the first time since 2009. The Lancers start mostly freshmen and sophomores, but are one of the field's most talented teams. Several starters have big-game experience, playing in the Babe Ruth World Series. Loyalsock has deep pitching with Kyle Datres (7-0), Zack Clark (4-1), Luke Glavin and Ethan Moore (4-0) all capable of pitching well.
The offense has been dangerous at times. Datres and Webb form a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the order and Clark is a consistent run producer. Nick DiFrancesco is effective at the bottom of the lineup and players like Phil Krizan and Robbie Kline also can be tough outs. The defense struggled late in the season and will have to play better if Loyalsock wants to make a run. The Lancers built some added momentum last Friday, rallying from two down in the seventh to beat No. 5 Bloomsburg, 7-6.
Loyalsock hosts either No. 8 Hughesville (12-7-1) or No. 9 Troy (12-8) Friday. Hughesville is one of the field's toughest teams, recording eight comeback wins.
The Spartans overcame a 6-0 deficit to beat Montoursville and own wins over the Warriors and Loyalsock. They also tied Jersey Shore. Hughesville has shown it can beat some of the district's top teams and has a nice blend of experience and promising young talent. The offense has struggled at times, but center fielder Jesse Hulien is a standout player and has a knack for delivering big hits in big games and Levi McCarty is another dangerous hitter. Pitcher Justin Lambert is 5-1.
Troy won seven of nine games at one point and was a win away from capturing the NTL-West championship.
No. 2 South Williamsport (17-3) stormed out to an impressive 15-0 start, routinely pounding opponents before losing three in a row. The Mounties came back strong last week, downing Towanda, 10-1, before thumping Millville, 21-0, and capturing their first HAC-III championship. They also have eight starters back from last year's district semifinalist.
Alex Carpenter and Brandon Gantz are a combined 13-2 and are backed by a strong offense that was averaging 12 runs per game during the 15-game winning streak. First baseman Ryan Orgitano has had one of the year's best seasons and is hitting over .600. He also leads the area in home runs and RBIs. Center fielder Caleb Catherine is hitting over .500 and Andrew Gipe acts as a second lead-off man in the No. 9 position and catcher Kyle Eck is tough in the middle of the order. South hosts either No. 7 Wellsboro (12-6) or No. 10 Montoursville (11-8) on Friday.
Wellsboro captured its second straight NTL-West championship and still has several starters who were on the 2010 team that made a Cinderella run to the district final. The Green Hornets rallied down the stretch after starting 6-4 and overcame a 5-2, last-inning deficit Saturday at the Giles Tournament, winning 6-5 on Connor Coolidge's two-run, walk-off double. Shortstop Matt Reese is one of the field's best and catcher Ben Shaw can pack a wallop at the plate. Dan Saniga pitched well down the stretch and Brandon Grinnell threw a no-hitter against Mansfield.
Montoursville dropped to 5-5 at one point, but won five straight after that and clinched a berth when it beat Williamsport, 6-4, at the Backyard Brawl. The Warriors are seeking their fourth district championship in seven seasons and, while relatively young with only three seniors, have the players to make it happen. Christian Clark (5-2) is one of the field's best pitchers, as is Pierce Ranck if he is healthy. Andrew Null and Alec Rothrock also have thrown well at times and sophomore Teigan Herlehy was brilliant in both the Backyard Brawl and the Giles Tournament.
Montoursville's lineup appears deeper than earlier this season. Null is dangerous in the middle of the order while Ranck and Clark are two of the field's premier hitters. Zach Pepperman can cause problems toward the bottom of the order and Quinton Kuntz also has had some big games.
No. 6 Towanda (14-6) reached last year's championship, downing Montoursville in the semifinals. The Black Knights have some terrific athletes, many who are three-sport standouts, and usually are one of the field's most fundamentally-sound teams. Towanda is seeking its fourth semifinal appearance in five seasons. Coincidentally, it hosts No. 11 Danville in the first round after failing to eliminate the Ironmen on Saturday in a rematch of last year's championship.
No. 3 Wyalusing (14-3) has several starters back from last year's playoff team and has some nice pitching to go along with a balanced lineup, giving it a chance to make a run. No. 4 Central Columbia finished second in the HAC-II, swept Bloomsburg and played outstanding down the stretch. It thumped Hughesville, 8-2, late in the season and has championship potential. So does Bloomsburg (14-5), which also has come on strong and has been playing well in all facets. It upset Warrior Run in last year's opening round before nearly stunning Montoursville in the quarterfinals.
Tournament Sleeper: Danville
A year ago, the Ironmen entered the season's final few weeks 7-8 and in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. They finished the season as district champions and state semifinalists after entering as the No. 12 seed. This is the team a lot of opponents were hoping would miss the postseason because pitcher Andrew Andreychik might be the best in the field and Danville enters hot, having won four straight to qualify, including over Towanda on Saturday. Mason Fausnaught has been pitching well the last two weeks and this team has the ingredients to make another rum.
Best first-round game: Bloomsburg at Central Columbia
Ask fellow Sun-Gazette reporter and Bloomsburg High School alum Mitch Rupert how big this rivalry is. Multiply that by 10 since this is a playoff game. Add in that both teams have played well late in the season and this looks like a great one.
Player to Watch: Ryan Orgitano, South Williamsport
The three-year starting junior hit the weights hard in the offseason and it has shown. Orgitano has belted eight home runs and driven in 41 runs on top of hitting well over .600. That is quite a weapon to have in the middle of the lineup.
Projected first-round winners: Danville, Montoursville, Hughesville
Projected Semifinals: Loyalsock over Central; Danville over South
Projected Final: Danville over Loyalsock
(6 teams, champion advances to states)
Muncy captured its fourth district championship since 2003 last year and reached the state semifinals for the third time during that span. Going back to 2000 when Southern Columbia won the state title, Muncy is the only District 4 Class A champion to advance out of the first round. The Indians (11-9) will have a tough time repeating after losing some outstanding players from last year's team but it would be foolish to ever count out a Chris Persing-led team.
Muncy has been ravaged by injuries throughout the season, but its offense is capable of big things and if the pitching and defense hold up anything is possible. Tim Colburn is one of the field's best hitters as is Dawson Fox and pitcher Doug Zehner won five straight postseason games last year. Center fielder Clayton Good is a solid hitter and Skylar Ebner has been outstanding in some pressure-filled relief performances. Young players like freshman Kenny Koch are loaded with potential and if they play well, Muncy has a shot to make some noise.
The Indians will travel to Laporte and face Sullivan County in the quarterfinals. Muncy swept the Griffins, outscoring it 23-5 in two games. The Indians have been off for nearly two weeks and usually that might not be a good thing, but it might be in this case since it gives some injured players more time to heal.
No. 4 Sullivan County (12-8) is in the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and only the fourth time since 1962. The Griffins started 7-3, lost five straight and then gathered postseason momentum by winning five straight after several starters were lost for the season. Sullivan already has tied the program record for wins in a season.
Pitcher Zach Meyer is 5-3 with a save and has been brilliant in the last few weeks while Kelby Mullen has won four games. Both have big-game experience starting on last winter's district basketball champion. Forrest Jordan can do good things at the top of the lineup and players like Barry Heinrich and Jake Gavitt have delivered some big hits late in the season.
No. 1 Montgomery (15-2) plays the winner and has had an excellent season despite losing the majority of its starters from last year's district finalist. Garrett Shnyder (4-1) has been masterful on the mound and threw a nine-inning complete-game five-hitter to hand South its first loss. He has been terrific in big games throughout his scholastic career and is the consummate competitor. Alex Worthington (5-1) has thrown a no-hitter and one-hitter and Kyle Russell was outstanding early in the season.
The offense has struggled at times, but coach Tom Persing is good at manufacturing runs, something that was evident in the South win. Shnyder is a tough out in the No. 3 spot and third baseman John Goetz has had a breakout year. Cody Klees has delivered two-walk-off hits against South and Muncy and is at his best in clutch situations.
No. 2 Canton (15-5) earned the other bye and is semifinal-bound for the fourth consecutive year. It is hoping to kick down the door this season and win its first district title. The Warriors are experienced and have one of the field's deepest pitching staffs. The offense is also dangerous top to bottom. Canton won 10 straight games at one point but struggled a bit over the season's final two weeks. Sophomore Garrett Wesneski has won four games on the mound and also is a good hitter, going 4 for 4 in his last game.
Canton plays either rival Sayre or surging St. John Neumann in Saturday's semifinals. No. 3 Sayre (14-5) won three straight district championships from 2008-10 and has deep pitching to complement a good lineup. Sayre did well in the rugged NTL-East, split with Canton and still has some starters from that 2010 champion.
No. 6 St. John Neumann (11-9) is playing as well as anyone in the field, rallying from a 4-9 start to qualify for the first time since 1993. The Knights have done so with only a 10-man roster and turned their season around with big wins over Sullivan and Montgomery. Brock Danneker, Ryan Reid and Doug Hasko all are pitching well and the offense has come to life at the perfect time, producing 53 runs and 50 hits in its last three games.
Neumann has made steady progress the last four seasons and is trying to become the best team in program history. Reid has won a team-high five games, Danneker has won four straight decisions and Conor Flynn has delivered some clutch hits down the stretch.
Tournament Sleeper: St. John Neumann
The key at this time of the year is to be peaking at this team enters districts scorching. Only the second team in program history to qualify, Neumann is playing well in all areas and has had a year to remember.
Player to Watch: Doug Zehner, Muncy
Zehner has pitched well this season but run into some bad luck. He is coming on when it matters, though, allowing only 13 hits in his last three starts. And never underestimate the value of having started in six straight postseason games and winning five of them. Zehner also can hit and has slammed three home runs.
Projected Semifinals: Montgomery over Muncy; Sayre over Canton
Projected Final: Sayre over Montgomery
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.