Cashtown manager Eric Ketterman admitted to having a little bit of concern heading into South Penn League playoffs which begin on Thursday evening.
The cause for apprehension for the veteran manager of the third-seeded Pirates and four-time defending league champions is that his team went a combined 0-7 against Shippensburg and Hagerstown.
Given that the Stars and Braves earned the top two seeds, it’s quite possible that Cashtown would have to defeat both of them to claim a fifth consecutive title to match a feat that the league hasn’t seen since the Taneytown Cardinals won five straight from 1994-98.
“We’re veterans of the playoffs, we’ve got a lot of guys that have been here before,” Ketterman said. “We had a solid regular season, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there’s a little concern about not beating Ship or Hagerstown this year.”
Cashtown (19-8) is led offensively by Tyler Reinert (.484, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 24 runs), Chase King (.341, 12 RBI, 26 runs), Ethan Ketterman (.357, 20 RBI) and Mike Tempel (.349, 15 RBI). The team combined to hit .301 as a group and posted 6.3 runs per game.
Anthony Lippy (6-0, 0.98 ERA, 63 SO in 43 innings) and Austin Kunkel (5-0, 0.21 ERA, 43 SO in 34 innings) front the Buccos’ rotation. As a staff, Cashtown pitched to a 2.13 ERA.
“Our roster is talented enough to do what we did in the regular season without much of a rhythm or consistency of guys being here,” Eric Ketterman said. “We have the experience and the pitching to win in the playoffs, but our guys have to show up ready to play.”
As the sixth seed, Biglerville (14-12) drew the defending champs and the teams split a pair of meetings just this past week with the Black Sox winning 5-4 at Cashtown on Wednesday and the Pirates returning the favor, 8-2, at Biglerville on Thursday. Cashtown won the other meeting between the teams, 8-1, on May 13.
Brandon Miller (.435, 8 RBI, 23 runs) and Chase Long (.308, 3 3B, 9 SB) led the Sox offense, while Logan Brewer had an outstanding final week of the regular season as he went 8-for-14 with four doubles and a home run in the last four games. The Black Sox offense hit .263 and averaged 4.27 runs per game
Tanner Byers (5-2, 2.31 ERA in 39 1/3 innings) and Tyler Martin (2-1, 2.44 ERA, 21 SO in 23 innings) had the best seasons on the mound for Biglerville, who posted a 3.47 team ERA.
Littlestown (18-8-2) used a 16-3 start to the season to propel themselves to the fourth seed. Following that smoking start, the Dodgers went 0-5-2 before sweeping Brushtown in a twinbill to wrap up the regular season on Saturday.
Trent Copenhaver (.400, 11 RBI, 6 SB), Sam Wertz (.303, 24 RBI) and Justin Keith (.348, 24 runs, 7 SB) spearheaded an offensive attack that batted .296 as a unit and averaged 5.25 runs per game.
On the hill, Ryan D’Allesandro (5-1, 1.58 ERA, 46 SO in 40 innings) was the Dodgers’ ace. While Justin Gladhill (3-0, 1.48 ERA) and Keith (3-1, 1.75 ERA) both provided 28 innings. Rubber-armed southpaw Calvin Benevento (1-2, 2.65 ERA) appeared in 14 games on the mound. Littlestown had a 2.31 team ERA.
“I thought we had a good regular season and I’m cautiously optimistic about our chances in the playoffs,” Keith, Littlestown’s player-manager said via text message. “The key for us is believing in our abilities and staying focused.”
A month before the season was set to begin, New Oxford (17-11), wasn’t sure it was even going to field a squad this season and the Twins started the campaign slowly at 2-4. But a six-game winning streak that was part of a 10-2 stretch firmly established the Twins as a playoff team. They finished the year holding the fifth seed.
“With the situation that we were in before the season, we just wanted to be able to get a decent team on the field,” New Oxford player-manager Jordan Arnold said via text message. “We weren’t really sure how we were going to be since more than half of our team was new, including many young teenagers. All of our veterans, myself included, knew that this is about where we had to be at the end of the season to have a chance to make a run in the playoffs.”
The Twins took all three meetings with the Dodgers by a combined four runs.
Brady Topper (.373, 10 RBI) and Jeff Deveney (.394, 10 RBI) are the offensive leaders for a team that batted .268 as a group and scored 3.85 runs per game.
Derek Huff (4-0, 2.02 ERA, 38 SO in 34 2/3 innings) and Arnold (2-2, 3.05 ERA in 41 1/3 innings) led the New Oxford arms to a 3.54 team ERA.
“We love playing Littlestown and it has nothing to do with us beating them three times this season,” Arnold said. “Our matchups have always been tough throughout the years and many of us are friends on both sides. Which makes the games more fun and more competitive.”
Shippensburg (25-2) earned the top seed a year after going 14-4, but losing its first two games and being out of last year’s double elimination tournament early.
This season, the Stars won their first nine contests before losing to Littlestown on June 14. They then ripped off 15 straight wins, until Hagerstown knocked them off on Friday.
“It’s a long season and you don’t win 25 out of 27 games very often,” Ship manager Josh Petty said. “We won the marathon, but now we have to win the sprint.”
The Stars had a few players from Shippensburg University last season, but have added more this season and that’s not something lost on their manager.
“We picked up more guys from Shippensburg University and that’s been huge for us. They bring a lot of talent to our team,” Petty said. “I feel good about our chances. We have a lot of talent, but we have to finish the deal.”
Ship led the league with a team batting average of .356 and scored 6.48 runs per contest.
Braden Petty (.406, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 15 SB), Joe Barbera (.436, 21 runs, 17 SB), Justin Darden (.429, 17 RBI, 8 SB), JuJu Cason (.422, 18 runs, 10 SB) and Jon Melendez (.344, 2 HR, 19 RBI) led the offense.
While 2020 league MVP Todd Weldon (7-0, 2.33 ERA, 69 SO in 45 innings), Jordie Henry (3-0, 0.37 ERA, 36 SO in 19 innings), Corey Weldon (3-1, 1.77 ERA in 23 2/3 innings) and Matt Hallman (4-1, 1.96 ERA in 25 innings) were tops on a staff that produced a 1.90 team ERA.
Todd Weldon faced Cashtown a trio of times this season and controlled the Pirate offense all three times that he took the mound.
Cumulatively, he allowed one run and five hits with 28 strikeouts and 12 walks in 19 total innings.
Frederick (11-16) earned the eighth seed and will face Shippensburg. The Stars took all three matchups with the Flying Dogs by two runs or less.
Hagerstown (24-3) won the regular season in 2020 and fell to Cashtown in the tournament, losing on back-to-back nights at home, after defeating the Pirates earlier in the week.
The Braves are the two-seed this year.
They are led on offense by Jarrett Biesecker (.539, 24 RBI, 28 runs), Adam Mathias (.370, 2 HR, 23 RBI), Peyton Mason (.313, 2 HR, 16 RBI) and Andrew Mathias (.344, 20 runs, 8 SB). As a group, they posted a .325 batting average and scored a league-best 7.27 runs per game.
2020 Pitcher of the Year Will Grove (4-0, 0.78 ERA, 26 SOin 27 innings) leads the way, but he’s from alone when it comes to quality arms for Hagerstown.
Josh Derocher (3-0, 0.00 ERA, 24 SO in 18 innings) and John Carter (3-1, 1.46 in 24 innings) also helped to pitch the team to a cumulative 1.36 ERA.
“We certainly like our chances in the playoffs. We feel like we have great talent in all phases of the game,” Hagerstown manager Mike Kipe said via text message. “If we can limit mistakes, not create extra pitches and more stress for our pitchers, we will be in great shape.”
Mason-Dixon (11-15-2) is the seventh seed and will faceoff with Hagerstown. The Braves were victorious in both meetings with the Rebels.
The quarterfinal series that begin on Thursday are best-of-3 with the higher seed playing at home in Game 1. Then Game 2 will be at the lower seeds on Saturday at 1 p.m. If a series needs a Game 3 to determine a winner, it’ll be played at the higher seed on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The semifinals and championship series are both scheduled to be best-of-5.
Frederick and Mason-Dixon did not provide statistics.
Follow Tom Sixeas on Twitter at @TomSixeas