After a hiatus of almost 720 days, the District Three softball championships are back.
When they last raised an index finger, declaring their status as No. 1, Central Dauphin, Twin Valley, Eastern York, Kutztown, Susquenita and Millersburg had taken their places as 2019 champions of their respective classifications. CD in 6A, and Twin Valley in 5A, repeated after having won in 2018.
They, along with Eastern York (4A) and Kutztown (3A) now return to defend their respective titles. Susquenita, the 2A champion, moved up to 3A and failed to qualify. Millersburg returns in 1A as well, but perennial finalist and seven-time champion Greenwood cratered to 0-17 this year and will miss the festivities.
And 14 Lancaster-Lebanon League teams will test their mettle in the district field, including Lampeter-Strasburg, riding a 20-game win streak and coming off winning its fifth league championship.
The Pioneers, chasing their second District Three title and first since 2007, enter the 5A field as the No. 2 seed behind Twin Valley. Also in 5A, league runner-up Elizabethtown is seeded sixth, followed by No. 7 Donegal, Solanco at No. 11 and Manheim Central at No. 14.
In 6A, Warwick is the top seed, yearning to get back to the finals after a 1-0, extra-inning loss to CD in 2019. The Warriors won it all in 1997 and 2003, with a finalist appearance in 2007.
Also in the 6A field is No. 3 seed Penn Manor, a two-time finalist in 2016-17, No. 6 Manheim Township, No. 10 Hempfield and Ephrata, making a return to districts after a 13-season absence, seeded at No. 12.
Northern Lebanon is the only L-L squad in 4A, seeded sixth, looking to get back to its first championship game since 1998. Pequea Valley, seeking a return to the title game for the first time since back-to-back appearances in 2016-17, is the No. 3 seed in 3A. Lancaster Catholic, making its second straight district tournament and fifth overall, is seeded fourth with Annville-Cleona the No. 6 seed.
The tournament begins Tuesday with Round of 16 games in 5A and first round games in 6A. The tournament hits high gear Thursday with quarterfinal games in all classes except 1A. Semifinals in 2A-6A are scheduled for Tuesday, June 1, with the championship games, and seeding games where applicable, set for Thursday, June 3. The exception to that is the 6A third-place game, set for Monday, May 31. The 1A championship, Millersburg v. Halifax, will be Tuesday, June 1.
Here’s a look at the first-round matchups for the L-L teams. All games are at 4:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Manheim Township (13-6) hosts No. 11 seed Carlisle (10-10), with the winner advancing to a Thursday contest with Penn Manor (18-4). Hempfield (11-9) travels to No. 7 Cumberland Valley (13-6) for a rematch of a 2019 first-rounder, won by CV, 3-1. Ephrata (9-11) takes on fifth-seeded Dallastown (15-5), the YAIAA Div. I co-champion with Central York.
On Thursday, Warwick (17-3) hosts the winner between No. 8 Central Dauphin (12-7) and No.9 Governor Mifflin (14-6). No. 2-seeded Chambersburg, the Mid-Penn champion, hosts the winner between Hempfield and CV. Fourth-seeded Central York (16-4) hosts the Dallastown-Ephrata winner.
Also on Tuesday, L-S (22-1) opens its title challenge hosting No. 15 New Oxford (8-12) in an L-L centric lower half of the draw. Donegal (15-3) rolls out the welcome mat for No. 10 Greencastle-Antrim (13-7), Manheim (11-8) travels to No. 3 South Western (16-0) and E-town (17-6) hosts Solanco (10-8) as they square off for the third time this year.
The Bears are shooting for their fifth finals appearance and second title, having won in 2010. The Golden Mules look to break a skein of snake eyes in seven semifinals.
In the upper half of the bracket No. 1 Twin Valley (18-1), the Berks County champion, would face a possible third match with No. 4 Daniel Boone in the semifinals. The team split two games, with the Raiders taking a 5-0 decision in the county championship.
Northern Lebanon (14-4) begins its postseason on Thursday with a trip to No. 3 seed and Berks County semifinalist Hamburg (17-2). The winner meets the winner between defending champion and No. 7 seed Eastern (13-5) and No. 2 seed and YAIAA Div. III champion Kennard Dale (18-2). Mid-Penn runner-up Bishop McDevitt (18-1) is the No. 1 seed.
Pequea Valley (13-5) will test the beat-a-team-three-times adage hosting Annville-Cleona (9-9) on Thursday. Defending champion Kutztown is 8-12, just slipped in at the No. 7 seed and will open at No. 2 Littlestown (15-5), which finished second to Kennard Dale. Lancaster Catholic (10-8) hosts No. 5 Bermudian Springs (10-10) with the winner advancing to the semifinals opposite the winner between top-seeded Trinity (14-2) and No. 8 Boiling Springs (6-14).
• Dave Byrne is an LNP | LancasterOnline correspondent who covers L-L softball. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @dbyrneman.