Sorry I can’t make it to State College today for the 2011 PIAA Baseball and Softball Championships. It’s a medical matter, getting better all of the time.

In the meantime, you can click the links below for text updates for baseball and an audio stream for softball provided by PIAA.

BASEBALL TEXT UPDATES

SOFTBALL AUDIO STREAM

In addition, PCN is providing live over-the-air coverage of each baseball championship and pay-per-view live video streaming over the Internet for baseball and softball. Here’s the link for the pay-per-view coverage (at $6.99 a pop): PAY-PER-VIEW

Here is the baseball championship schedule from Medlar Field at Lubrano Park at Penn State:
CLASS AAA: Northern York 6, Tunkhannock 3 (Northern York wins school’s first PIAA championship in a team sport)
CLASS A: Serra Catholic 4, Reading Central Catholic 0 (Serra wins handily after state championship losses in 2009 and 2010)
CLASS AA: Ellwood City Riverside 5, Salisbury Twp. 2 (Riverside becomes sixth school to win 3 PIAA baseball titles)
CLASS AAAA: Conestoga 6, Spring-Ford 3, 10 inn. (Conestoga wins first PIAA baseball title, reverse 22-11 District 1-AAAA loss)

Here is the softball championship schedule from Nittany Lion Softball Park at Penn State:
CLASS AA: Philipsburg-Osceola 1, Brandywine Heights 0 (P-O wins second title in five years)
CLASS AAAA: Hatboro-Horsham 4, Pennsbury 3 (HH scores 3 in the 6th to claim its 2nd PIAA softball title)
CLASS A: Minersville 6, Clarion 1 (Minersville wins 8th PIAA softball title, most in PIAA history)
CLASS AAA: Valley 3, Manheim Central 1 (Valley wins first PIAA softball championship)

In the meantime, here are a few game notes:

BASEBALL
CLASS AAA: Northern York vs. Tunkhannock … First appearance in the PIAA Baseball Championship for either school … The game was moved from its scheduled 1 p.m. start time to 10:30 a.m. because of Tunkhannock’s graduation ceremony Friday evening … The first four batters in Northern’s lineup – New York Mets draftee Joe Tuschak, Cody McLaughlin, Jon Mayer and Dylan Tamecki – all have batting averages above .400 … Lefty Vince Apicella of Northern has 121 Ks … Tunkhannock SS Mike Papi is batting .556, just ahead of power-hitting Mike Healey (10 HR, a whopping 50 RBI in just 21 games)

CLASS A: Reading Central Catholic vs. Serra Catholic … Serra is the first school to reach the PIAA baseball finals three straight years. The Eagles lost to Christopher Dock 4-3 in a stunning 7th-inning rally last year and Camp Hill 7-3 in 2009 … The Eagles will start pitcher Alain Girman, who is 23-0 in his high school career. Girman started last year’s championship game and pitched well before yielding to his brother, Oliver … Reading Central Catholic has an unbelievable storyline. Today’s game is the last athletic event in the school’s history; Central Catholic and Reading Holy Name are merging next school year to form Berks Catholic High School … The Cardinals might be the first school to reach the PIAA finals with a losing record at 11-13. They were 2-12 in their first 14 games this season. In fact, the school nearly dropped baseball in 2008 because of lack of participation

CLASS AA: Salisbury Twp. vs. Ellwood City Riverside … Salisbury Twp. is making its first state championship appearance; Riverside is making its third state finals appearance in the last seven years, having won PIAA Class AA titles in 2005 (over Halifax 8-0 with the first no-hitter in PIAA championship game history and 2006 (over Montoursville 7-4) … Salisbury’s Zach Harper will make the start on 3 days rest; he’s 2-0 in the PIAA playoffs. … Riverside can join five other schools – Camp Hill, Chambersburg, Christopher Dock Mennonite, Mount Union and Oley Valley – as three-time PIAA baseball champions with a win. No school has won more than three PIAA baseball championships; the PIAA baseball playoffs did not begin until 1977.

CLASS AAAA: Spring-Ford vs. Conestoga … You can call this a District 1-AAAA rematch if you like, but if it ends up being anything like Spring-Ford’s 22-11 win in the 1-AAAA championship back on June 2, it will be a stunner (and a record-breaker, given the PIAA championship game record for runs in a game is 22; that would be Mount Union’s 14-8 win over Wyomissing in the 1993 AA title game) … This is the second straight year for an all-District 1 Class AAAA final. Last year, Henderson defeated Owen J. Roberts 7-0 in the Class AAAA championship game at Altoona. … Spring-Ford is likely to start senior pitcher Mike Oczypok, who has a 14-0 record and a 0.87 ERA … Spring-Ford is making its second championship game appearance in four years, losing 10-2 to Canon-McMillan in in the 2008 Class AAAA championship game … Conestoga is making its first state championship appearance.

SOFTBALL
CLASS AA: Brandywine Heights vs. Philipsburg-Osceola … P-O and Brandywine met in the 2007 PIAA Class AA championship game with P-O winning 11-6, the highest-scoring game in PIAA softball championship history … P-O is making is second straight appearance in the finals, losing 3-1 in 11 innings to Nanticoke in 2010, and its third appearance in the last five years … Likewise, Brandywine is making its third appearance in five years, having lost to Bald Eagle Area 2-0 in 2009 as well as P-O in 2007 … P-O and Brandywine Heights also made one other Class AA championship game appearance each, Brandywine in 2005 (losing to Bald Eagle Area 6-0), P-O in 2000 (losing to Valley View 1-0)

CLASS AAAA: Hatboro-Horsham vs. Pennsbury … Like baseball, another all District 1-AAAA final. Hatboro-Horsham squandered a 5-0 lead in the 1-AAAA title game only to win 8-5 in eight innings on three unearned runs … Hatboro-Horsham starts six sophomores … Pennsbury has won five PIAA softball titles – second all-time in state history behind Minersville’s seven – the last coming in 2007 with a 3-2 win over Greater Latrobe … Hatboro-Horsham won its lone PIAA softball championship the following year with a 3-0 over poor Greater Latrobe … This is Hatboro-Horsham’s third appearance (lost to Shaler 3-0 in 2006) and Pennsbury’s seventh; the Falcons are 5-1 in championship games, losing to State College, 2-0, in its initial appearance in 1978

CLASS A: Minersville vs. Clarion … Minersville has been the undisputed champion of PIAA softball champions with a record seven, including the first two Class AA titles in 1979 and 1980 … In fact, the Battlin’ Miners have the distinction of winning the first Class AA and Class A PIAA titles; Minersville won the initial Class A championship in 1999 over Chartiers-Houston, 6-0 … This is Minersville’s record 9th PIAA championship game appearance … Clarion is the lone remaining unbeaten baseball or softball team in the state. The Bobcats are making their first PIAA championship game appearance … Clarion coach Dan Shofestall is 94-37 in his seventh season, but has done an amazing reclamation project. Clarion had won just three games in the previous two seasons when he took over in 2005.

CLASS AAA: Manheim Central vs. Valley … This is the first PIAA championship game appearance for both schools … Manheim Central has just two senior starters, Alexa Campbell and Samantha Ginder, both of whom skipped Manheim Central’s Senior Week in Florida to play in the state championships … Manheim Central has had five one-run victory in 9 postseason games … Valley was the WPIAL Class AA champion a year ago, but was moved up to AAA this year. It won again despite entering the WPIAL tournament with just 11 wins in a season devastated by rainouts.

 

Have to admit I was baffled by Pennsylvania’s approach to its passing game in its 18-15 loss to Ohio in the Big 33 game Saturday in Hershey.

Quarterbacks Tyler Smith (Wilson Area) and Anthony Gonzalez (Liberty) are fine quarterbacks, but the passing game appeared to be set up more for Peyton Manning or Dan Marino than a couple of guys fresh off their high school graduations. The Pennsylvania passing stratgey appeared to be this: Hit tight end Tyler Beck on a drag, then throw the ball straight downfield the next 10 attempts.

Didn’t work real well. Combined, Smith and Gonzalez were 16 of 48, picked three times (a fourth was erased by a penalty). Sure, you’re going to point to their combined 315 passing yards and two touchdowns and claim that balances the ledger. If it were only about numbers, that case could be made.

But the bottom line is this: Ohio’s coverage was just awful. Ohio d-backs, playing the game’s required man-to-man, either kept losing their man or had no idea who their man was. That was case throughout the game, including the first half when Smith and Gonzalez completed just one of their first 13 attempts.

It was frustrating to watch Pennsylvania wide receivers run to open areas on deep patterns (often just jets straight upfield) and come away with nothing.

Let’s be frank: Smith and Gonzalez just didn’t have “A” games throwing the ball, in part because they misfired too often and in part because the patterns were oversimplified. With the wideouts running straight downfield, Pa. could have made a killing with shorter crossing routes, but only seemed to take advantage of this with Beck.

In addition, I have to admit that, with plenty of time to mentally wander during an awful first half, I kept thinking, “I wonder how Kyle Smith would do against this defense?”

Smith, of course, is the state’s career passing yardage and touchdown leader from Lancaster Catholic who was shuffled off to Friday’s East-West game in Altoona instead of Big 33, a move I just didn’t get, especially since Gonzalez, who absolutely deserved to be in the Big 33 Game, could have played several positions for Pa.

I have been baffled by the ongoing snubs that Kyle Smith, who has an Ivy League brain and Division I ability, has endured. The word-on-the-street rap on Smith was his arm strength, although the lefty was a PIAA javelin champion who hit 200 feet (that’s 66 yards) several times. And although I didn’t see a whole lot of LC games, the times I did watch him, his arm seemed fine to me

Ah, well. I’m not the first guy who’s slapped his forehead on Big 33 picks. And I won’t be the last.

—-

The following was pointed out to me in the press box at Altoona’s Blair County Ballpark during Friday’s PIAA baseball championship games, although I’ll be darned if I can remember by whom.

AAAA champion West Chester Henderson’s clean-up batter was senior first baseman John Iezzi. The first-base umpire for the game was Joseph A. Iezzi, no address given. I am definitely not implying anything because I haven’t the slightest idea if the Iezzi’s are related; I’m just pointing out the same curiosity that was pointed out to me.

But we can say that John and Joseph Iezzi were close, physically. They spent one half of the game working about 10 feet apart.

I suppose Serra Catholic baseball coach Brian Dzurenda is fading some heat for ignoring baseball convention and intentionally walking a batter in the seventh inning to put the potential (and eventual) winning run on second base in the PIAA Class A championship game against Christopher Dock. But I’m not among the critics.

First, some table-setting: Serra led Dock 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh of the PIAA Class A championship game. Dock’s No. 8 and 9 hitters are quickly struck out Serra relief pitcher Oliver Girman, who works a 1-2 count to leadoff batter Drew Mininger.

Mininger singles to left. Then Girman hits Dock. No. 2 batter Brandon Reichart, putting runners on first and second with two out. And as baseball purists know, you take your chances with the next batter, even if he’s Ted Williams.

The problem was the next Dock batter was senior Ryan Seiz, a Louisville recruit. And in the PIAA playoffs, Seiz was better than Ted Williams: Seiz was batting 1.000 in his four state playoff game. That’s right, 1.000.

And in the state championship game against Serra Catholic, Seiz was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a single, all cover-rippers and – this is key, too – all on pitches that were tough to hit. The last time Seiz made an out in an official at-bat was in the District 1-A championship game on June 1.

Dzurenda knew this and he didn’t hesitate a bit to call for the intentional walk to load the bases. True, that brought up Dock clean-up hitter Alex Summers, but Summers was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Simply put, Dzurenda was playing the percentages, and he played them properly.

But fate was cruel to Serra. Summers cracked a hopper to third that Serra third baseman Ken Tomco awkwardly put the glove on, but the hop handcuffed him and shot past him into left field. Mininger and Reichart both scored, and Dock had its thrilling victory.

That left Dzurenda open to some classic second-guessing. But as I said, not here. He did the right thing, period. I would have done it with Seiz coming up and I wouldn’t have done it with anyone else coming to the plate.

Except Ted Williams. Maybe.

 

Here is a collection of newspaper articles from around the state regarding Friday’s PIAA baseball championships from Altoona’s Blair County Ballpark.

I’ll post my view later today before I head out to the Big 33 Game in Hershey.

CLASS AAAA
Henderson 7, Owen J. Roberts 0

Pottstown Mercury sidebar
Pottstown Mercury game story
Harrisburg Patriot-News game story
West Chester Daily Local News – no stories posted
Philadelphia Inquirer game story

CLASS AAA
Conrad Weiser 6, Hershey 2

Reading Eagle game story
Reading Eagle sidebar
Harrisburg Patriot-News game story
Harrisburg Patriot-News sidebar

CLASS AA
Bermudian Springs 5, Martinsburg Central 3

Hanover / York game story (from gametimepa.com)
Hanover / York sidebar
Hanover / York celebration piece
Harrisburg Patriot-News game story
Altoona Mirror game story
Altoona Mirror sidebar
Altoona Mirror notebook
Altoona Mirror additional notes

CLASS A
Christopher Dock 4, Serra Catholic 3

Bucks County Courier Times game story
Lansdale Reporter game story
Lansdale reporter sidebar
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review game story
Philadelphia Daily News game story
Harrisburg Patriot-News game story

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