Given that there hasn’t been a season since 2019, there’s a lot we don’t know about Lancaster-Lebanon League baseball in 2021.
We do actually know some things, though. Here are some of them:
2019 was a very good year: Lampeter-Strasburg won 24 games, the L-L Section Two title, the league title, and reached the Class 5A District Three and state championship games.
Hempfield, the Section One champ in ‘19, reached the district final in 6A, where it lost to Wilson. Hempfield beat Manheim Township in the semifinals.
The format: The L-L’s four-section format is unchanged, with the exception of Lebanon Catholic closing.
That leaves Section Three with seven teams and Section Four with just five; Sections One and Two have six teams each.
One and Two will play crossover games with each other, one per team, as in the past. Three and Four will play five crossovers, with Section Three teams having two open dates.
This is new: The crossovers will not count in the league standings. That change was made pre-pandemic, on the theory that all four sections should have the same regular-season structure.
The pandemic does mean the league has not yet decided on a format for the L-L playoffs. When, where and how many teams are involved are as yet unknown.
The players: Considering that current seniors were sophomores the last time there was a high school season, there are a surprising number of established stars in the L-L.
L-S’ Braedon Karpathios made the 19-player all-league team in ‘19, hitting .459 with a .583 on-base percentage and otherworldly 1.259 slugging percentage. He also 4-0 as a pitcher with 0.84 ERA and 41 Ks in 25 innings.
The pitching part is on hold, as Karpathios recovers from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Also for L-S, Brandon Knapp is a toolsy centerfielder who’s signed with Division One George Mason.
Penn Manor’s Hunter Sipel was called up from the JVs as a freshman during the season in 2019, went 2-1 on the mound with a 1.13 ERA and hit .316. Now a junior, he has verbally committed to D1 Kent State.
Manheim Central P/1B Colton Book went 8-2 on the mound in ‘19, with a 1.05 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 40 innings. He can also rake - .357 with 19 RBI as a soph.
Evan Rohrbach appeared in 16 varsity games for Warwick in 2019. He’ll be a guy to build around - a No. 1 starting pitcher and everyday shortstop.
Octorara has one of those SS/P guys, Ben Chase, who went 4-1 with a 1.02 ERA and hit .300 with nine RBI and six steals two years ago.
Solanco 3B Seth Harnish was one of the few sophomores to make first-team all-Section in 2019.
The teams: On paper, it’s hard to look better, given the circumstances, than Manheim Township.
The Blue Streaks finished third in District Three 6A last time out, and did it with a team built around underclassmen.
This year’s pitching rotation figures to include Dylan King (committed to Division One Charleston Southern), Colin Fitzgerald (Maine), Ben Shenosky (Virginia Tech) and Ryan Jones (first team all-Section One in ‘19).
Centerfielder Kyle Musser, a Cornell commit, his .319 in 2019. Jones hit .346. 2B Drew Sassaman bound for Penn State-Harrisburg, hit .313.
Flanking Musser in the outfield, and leading a deep bullpen, will be junior J.T. Musser and senior Evan Clark, a football preferred walk-on at Penn State.
“It’s exciting,’’ veteran coach Matt Kirchoff said. “It’s nice to be back, but let’s not be satisfied with that. Why just be happy to be out there?”
2019 Section One champ and district finalist Hempfield, and Warwick, still loaded with athletes, should challenge the Streaks.
In Section Two, look to L-S again, under coach Jeffrey Swarr, in his first actual season at the helm. And perennially tough Ephrata.
Solanco, which won 15 games in ‘19 and lost to L-S in the distinct quarterfinals, looks strong with Harnish and sophomore lefty Tyler Burger, son of former L-S star and Philadelphia Phillies farmhand Rob Burger.
Manheim Central, which won 20 games and the Section Three crown last time, looks formidable with Book on the mound and Cam Eberly (.316 in ‘19) at short.
Cocalico could challenge Central with a core group that contributed to a 12-8 team in 2019.
2019 Section Four champ Lancaster Catholic welcomes back a strong core: P/1B Josh Beck, P/SS Brandon Wingenroth, OF Luis Correa and P/OF Coleby Lopatic.
Annville-Cleona, 14-8-1 and section runner-up last time, could challenge, led by P/C/INF Jeremy Seyfert.