SOL District One Baseball Preview

By Scott Huff

The bye.
In the PIAA District One Quad-A baseball playoffs, the bye in the first round is something extremely significant to play for during the regular season. And for eight of the teams in the 24-team field, May 18th is a day of scouting.
“Last year we were the team with the bye,” said Souderton coach Michael Childs as his Indians were SOL Continental Conference champions. “Now we have to play in that first round, and it makes a big difference.
“You have to throw your best pitcher in order to advance in the playoff,” added Childs. “And that means you have to face the other team’s number one in the second round.”
There are four Suburban One League teams that have earned that key first round home bye – Council Rock South (North 1 seed), Pennridge (N 2), Council Rock North (N 3) and North Penn (N 4). Those four schools will host games on Wednesday – May 20th.
All teams in the Suburban One League are in the North half of the district bracket.
There are six other SOL teams that have earned spots in the postseason but must play first round games. That list includes Souderton, Central Bucks East, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Norristown, Neshaminy, and Truman. Those six schools will have games on Monday – May 18th.
The following is a close-up look at the first round SOL games.
Souderton (N 9) @ Garnet Valley (S 8) – 4 p.m.
Souderton (8-6) made a terrific run at the end of the season to earn its bid. The Indians won their last three conference games to finish behind conference champion Pennridge (11-3). Souderton was one of four teams to earn honors from the SOL Continental Conference.
“I told the players after we lost to Pennridge that anything was possible,” said Childs. “I knew we had to win out the last three games, and the players handled the pressure well.
“The big win was the game against CB East,” added Childs in reference to the Indians 8-1 win in the regular season finale. “And it was nice to have Keith Moyer to throw in that game.”
Moyer – the Indian ace all season – will get the ball for Souderton in the opening round game,
“This game will give our seniors a chance to make their mark,” said Childs. “Brett Moyer, Tim Maloney, and Sean Leo will get to finish their high school careers in the playoffs.
“We got to the playoffs by playing like a team,” continued Childs. “We’re going to have to carry that over if we want to get to the state playoffs.”
A Souderton win would advance them to an away game at Council Rock South (N 1) on Wednesday, May 20, 4 p.m.
Spring-Ford (S 14) @ Central Bucks East (N 5) – 4 p.m.
Central Bucks East (9-5) has played good baseball all season and contended for the conference championship before finishing third in the Continental Conference behind champion Pennridge (11-3).
“I’m confident that we are going to be okay in this first round,” said Patriot coach Kyle Dennis. “Spring-Ford has two decent pitchers – and we’ll probably see Elliot Criss who throws in the mid-80’s.
“But I trust the players on our team, especially the infielders,” added Dennis in regard to third baseman Matt Tenaglia, shortstop Mike Damm, second baseman Ryan Sparks, and first baseman Chris Zikmund. “Tim Wessel will start the game, and he will throw strikes. If we continue to hit the ball, and get off to a good start, we can play with anyone.”
A Central Bucks East win will advance the Patriots to an away contest @ Great Valley (S 4) - on Wednesday, May 20, 4 p.m.
Haverford (S10) @ (N 7) Plymouth Whitemarsh  - 4 p.m.
The Colonials (9-5) gained the automatic bid from the SOL American as the highest Quad-A team from the conference. PW lost the championship to Upper Moreland – a Class AAA school - which finished with a record of 10-4.
“I think playing a team with a totally different uniform is a good thing,” said Plymouth Whitemarsh coach Robert Slagle. “It’s always nice to have a little mystery about who you are playing.
“We know that they have a very good pitcher named JJ Sims,” added Slagle. “And they have a good shortstop in Ron Tanner and a good second baseman in Pat Resnick.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh will start its senior – Chris Quarino – in this critical opening round game.
“We have to get a big inning – hang some crooked numbers on the scoreboard – and we should be fine,” said Slagle. “We have them at home, and the players really feel like they can play with anyone.”
A Plymouth Whitemarsh win would earn them a second round game @ Owen J Roberts (S 2) on Wednesday, May 20.
Chichester (S 9) @ Norristown (N 8) – 4 p.m.
Norristown (9-5) had an SOL American Conference championship within its grasp on the last game of the season, but the Eagles lost to visiting Wissahickon, 5-3.
The loss not only placed the Birds in a second place tie in the standings behind first place Upper Moreland (10-4), but Norristown lost the tiebreaker with PW for the top Quad-A seed.
But that setback has done little to diminish the accomplishments of the Eagles this season. Norristown, which competed in the Continental Conference last season, strongly contended for an American Conference crown.
“When the season began, we talked about both championships and playoffs,” said Norristown coach Jim Teeter. “The players were excited, and we were able to get into the playoffs.
“Getting a home game in huge,” added Teeter. “It says a lot about what we have done this season.”
Norristown has gotten to the dance with an ability to hit the baseball. David Loevecchio, Matt Martello, Mark Pinchok, Luke Stem, Ian Hammer, Anthony DiNolfi. and Brandon Bell have hit up and down the Eagle lineup.
“When you can average seven or eight runs a game, you are going to be in most games, and we can hit the baseball,” said Teeter. “And our starting pitching has kept us in most games.”
A Norristown win would advance the Eagles to a second round game @ West Chester East (S 1) – on Wednesday, May 20, 4 p.m.
Neshaminy (N 10) @ Boyertown (S 7) – 4 p.m.
Neshaminy (8-6) made a run for the playoffs with a three-game win streak at the end of the season. The Redskins finished fourth in the National Conference behind conference champion Council Rock South (13-1). Neshaminy was one of four teams to make the postseason from the SOL National.
“We have been a little inconsistent most of the season,” said Neshaminy coach Dennis Cox. “But we have been playing marvelous baseball the last week of the season.
“Lately we have really been hitting the baseball,” said Cox. “The top of our lineup has been hitting well all season.”
Neshaminy features junior shortstop Rick Brebner (.440), senior second baseman Brian Fiocco, and senior catcher Michael Kusters (.469 with 23 RBI) in the top three spots in the lineup.
“We are going to pitch (junior) Ray Hyjurick against Boyertown,” said Cox. “He moves the ball around well, and we will go after people.
“You know that Boyertown is going to be a sound fundamental team,” added Cox. “They can play small ball, and we’re going to have to execute.”
A Neshaminy win will earn the Redskins a second round game @ Pennridge (N 1) to meet the Rams in a 4 p.m. game. The Skins had beaten Pennridge 15-5 early in the season.
Bayard Rustin (S 12) @ Truman (N 6) – 4 p.m.
Harry S Truman (10-4) lived a ‘tale of two seasons’ as the Tigers were forced to fight through injuries to key players.
Truman (10-4) finished the season in third place in the SOL National Conference behind conference champion Council Rock South (13-1).
“We lost our top two pitchers – Frank Morris and Josh Patman – early in the year due to injuries,” said Truman coach Jeff Vitale. “Frank is back, but not pitching, and Josh is back.”
The Tigers began the conference schedule with a 2-4 mark but won their last eight games to become the hottest team in the conference. Truman ran off wins against Rock North, Neshaminy, Bensalem, Abington, William Tennent, and Pennsbury on its run to the playoffs.
The last conference loss for the Tigers came on April 23rd when Truman was mercy-ruled by Council Rock South – 10-0.
“Coming into the season we thought we were going to be able to compete for a title,” said Vitale. “I knew we were going to be able to score runs, and I thought with Frank and Josh we had the pitching.
“But then we got to the bad start due to the injuries,” added Vitale. “And lately we have been playing the way I thought we would play the whole season. The players have hung in there.”
A Truman victory would give the Tigers a second round game @ Conestoga (S 2) on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
The bye.
The bye doesn’t exist in the PIAA District One Class AAA tournament. The eight competing teams begin play on Tuesday, May 20, 4 p.m., and there are two SOL teams in the field – Upper Moreland and Upper Merion.
“(Upper Moreland coach) Ernie Rehr and I were talking the other day about how great it would be to play each other in the second round,” said Upper Merion coach Jason Darnell. “We have a lot of respect for their team, and it would be awesome to have that second round game.”
That game between SOL American Conference foes would be played on a neutral field on Thursday. But both the Golden Bears and the Vikings have games to win before that match-up.
Upper Perkiomen (# 6 seed) @ Upper Moreland (# 3) – 4 p.m.
Upper Moreland (10-4) was crowned the SOL American Conference outright champions on the last day of the season. The Golden Bears bested both Plymouth Whitemarsh (9-5) and Norristown (9-5) for the conference title.
“This whole season was a great experience for us,” said Upper Moreland head coach Ernie Rehr. “We got up on Springfield pretty early in the game, and then we got a phone call telling us that Norristown lost and we were sole champions. It was pretty exciting.
“All we need to know about Upper Perkiomen is that they are going to compete with us,” added Rehr. “We know they play some small ball and like to move runners. We just have to go out there and get some outs.”
The Golden Bears will send southpaw Steve Sawa to the mound on Tuesday against the Tribe.
“We’re all set to go,” said Rehr. “We have no excuses. We have to go out and play our game.”
And if the outcome is a winning one, the Strath Haven-Upper Merion winner awaits.
Upper Merion (# 7) @ Strath Haven (# 2) – 4 p.m.
Upper Merion (8-6) was on the district playoff bubble until the final week of the season, but a strong finish put the Vikings into the postseason.
“We had a nice little turnaround toward the end of the season,” said Upper Merion head coach Jason Darnell. “Strath Haven was very competitive in its league, and we have some homework to do to get ready for them.
“But really, we just want to go out and play our game,” added Darnell. “If we do that, we should be fine.”
The Vikings will send senior Chris Baker to the mound against Strath Haven. Baker is 5-2 with an ERA of 2.00.
Upper Merion will depend on the hot bats of Baker, Ben Dworecki, James O’Toole, and Joel Paradis to continue.
A victory over Strath Haven will send the Vikes to a second round against the winner of the Upper Moreland – Upper Perkiomen contest.
        Suburban One Ten + 2
1.      Council Rock South Golden Hawks
2.      Pennridge Rams
3.      Council Rock North Indians
4.      North Penn Knights
5.      Central Bucks East Patriots
6.      Truman Tigers
7.      Upper Moreland Golden Bears
8.      Plymouth Whitemarsh Colonials
9.      Norristown Eagles
10.                     Souderton Indians
+ 1 Neshaminy Redskins
+ 2 Upper Merion Vikings