The battle for the last spot in the Lancaster-Lebanon League baseball playoffs has spilled up against the beginning of the playoffs themselves.
That makes things sound a bit more complicated than they are. The eight spots in Saturday’s quarterfinals go to the champions and runners-up in the L-L’s four sections. The bracket was filled out, as of Thursday, when Solanco (6-4 in th section) nosed out Ephrata and Elizabethtown.
Ephrata, resurgent of late, could have locked up the playoff berth by winning at Section Two champion Lampeter-Strasburg Wednesday, but the Pioneers, also resurgent, won their seventh straight. 11-1.
A Lebanon win against Solanco Thursday would have meant a three-way tie.
In that instance, the league’s first three proscribed tiebreakers, head-to-head record, record vs. the section champion and winning percentage in section games, would decide nothing (actually the third tiebreaker is moot, or redundant, this year, since crossover games didn’t count toward section titles).
Tiebreaker No. 4 is District Three power rating as of 11 a.m. Friday, according to L-L baseball chairman William Templin. Before Thursday’s Lebanon-Solanco game, Solanco was 21st in the Class 5A ranking (actual number: 0.556313), Ephrata 22nd (0.555545) and E-town 23rd (0.550097).
This might be the place to point out that a week ago, at E-town, Solanco scored four runs in the seventh inning to beat the Bears, 9-8.
All quarterfinals are at the section champ’s home fields.
A look at Saturday’s matchups:
Manheim Township (19-0, Section One champion) vs. Annville-Cleona (6-2, 9-9, Section Four runner-up), 11 a.m.: As their record suggests, the Blue Streaks have been the L-L’s deepest and most consistent team, both in terms of pitching arms and the everyday lineup. They don’t necessarily have better players, but they certainly gave more of them.
A-C has used a smallball offense to cause problems for most of its opponents. The Dutchmen have some quality losses, if there is such a thing, including two against Section Four champ Lancaster Catholic and one against Berks County small-school power Oley Valley.
Lampeter-Strasburg (7-1, 14-5, Section One champion) vs. Cocalico (8-2, 13-3, Section Two runner-up) 10 a.m.: The Pioneers had one wobbly mid-season stretch in which they lost four of six, three of them to Section One opponents. They’ve been rolling since, including handing Manheim Central its lone loss, 4-2 May 1.
Cocalico has beaten everyone it was supposed to, no small feat in this sport. The Eagles’ losses are high-level, to Manheim Township and twice to Manheim Central, the latter a 5-5 game in the sixth inning.
Manheim Central (12-0, 16-1, Section Three champ) vs. Section Two runner-up, 11 a.m.: The Barons are formidable. They have the league’s most productive offense, with a whopping 186 runs scored. They may also have its best pitcher, Stony Brook signee Colton Book.
The survivor of the Section Two logjam described above will have its hands full, and the league playoffs will be the extent of its postseason; it will not qualify for districts in 5A.
Lancaster Catholic (11-5, 7-0, Section Four champion) vs. Warwick (7-3, 14-5, Section One runner-up), 1 p.m.: The Crusaders flew out of the starting gate 6-0 and dominant. Since then they’ve been just OK, although they have not been seriously challenged in the section. They have one of the league’s best pitchers, senior lefty Josh Beck, and position players, shortstop and Penn State commit Brandon Wingenroth.
Warwick had won eight straight, mostly by blowout, before losing its regular season finale to Manheim Township. The Warriors, power-ranked fourth in the district in 6A, have two top-line pitchers, lefty Matt Seibert and righty Matt Williams.
The semifinals will be played at 4 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field. The championship game is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, also at Ephrata.