Hempfield vs Lampeter-Strasburg-LL Baseball Championships

Lampeter-Strasburg's bench comes out to congratulate teammates Connor Blantz (6) and Alex Knapp (13) after scoring against Hempfield during first inning action of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Baseball Championships at Ephrata's War Memorial Field Thursday May 16, 2019.

Updated: Due to the weather, Thursday's PIAA Class 5A baseball championship has been postponed. Lampeter-Strasburg will now play Red Land for the state title Friday at 7:30 p.m.

The Lampeter-Strasburg baseball team made it a perfect 5 for 5 on Monday.

Shutting out Cedar Cliff in the semifinals, the Pioneers claimed their spot in the state championship – the fifth time in as many PIAA playoff appearances that L-S has reached the final.

Now, it’s time to see if the Pioneers can bring home their third state title.

L-S will face District Three foe Red Land for Class 5A gold at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re going to have to quiet the nerves a little bit,” L-S coach Keith Martin admitted after Monday’s 3-0 semifinal victory. “It’s a big stage, but the past couple of games we’ve won good games, tight games. We were able to string some hits together, but after the game, it was business as usual, so I think these guys are ready. I think they’re just going to come ready to play.”

The Pioneers (24-4) have looked ready to play all season, cruising to the Section Two and Lancaster-Lebanon League championships. After earning a state berth, L-S had a bit of a stumble in the District Three tournament, but so did Red Land.

Both teams lost in the semifinals, with top-seeded Red Land being edged by eventual champion Cedar Cliff 4-3. That put Red Land and L-S in the third-place game, where the Patriots regained the momentum.

Red Land (24-3) jumped out to 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on a hit batter with the bases loaded and Mason Walker’s two-run single. Benny Montgomery led the way, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a run scored, while L-S struggled to find the big hits.

The Pioneers put runners on the corners with two outs in both the sixth and seventh innings, but left them stranded in a 6-0 loss. By the time the state playoffs started though, L-S found itself back in control.

In three games, opponents have managed just eight hits while striking out 26 times against pitchers Dylan Byler and Braedon Karpathios. Over that stretch, L-S has outscored the competition 15-3. It’s an impressive margin, no doubt, but Red Land boasts some pretty dominant numbers as well.

The Patriots have won their three games by a combined score of 25-2, including an 11-0 first round victory over Holy Ghost Prep and a 12-1 quarterfinal win over Pittston, both in five innings.

In Tuesday’s semifinals, Jared Payne knocked in Cole Wagner in the sixth in a 2-1 win over Blue Mountain. Luke Wagner went the distance on the mound in that one, ruling him out for the championship, where Red Land should turn to Penn State commit Jaden Henline (4-1, 56 Ks).

Payne, who’s headed to Kentucky, leads the way at the plate with a .387 average and is tied for first with 27 RBIs. Cole Wagner isn’t too far behind, batting .366 and matching Henline with a team-high three home runs.

A win would give Red Land its first state title since 1990, but there are four starters who haven’t had to wait that long to hoist a trophy.

Juniors Henline and Adam Cramer and sophomores Cole Wagner and Braden Kolmansberger were part of the 2015 Red Land Little League team that won the U.S. championship four years ago. That win marked the first time since 1990 that a Pennsylvania team had won the title.

With the game postponed until Friday, L-S should have both Byler and Karpathios available to pitch as the Pioneers try to stop Red Land from making more history.

Byler (8-1, 73 Ks) went the distance in Monday's semifinal, tossing a complete game one-hitter and striking out six. Karpathios (8-1, 77 Ks) last pitched in the quarterfinals, striking out 11 batters in a 7-2 win over Franklin Regional. The sophomore suffered his only loss of the season against Red Land, giving him even more incentive as L-S goes for its first state title since winning the Class 3A crown in 2005.