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D6 3A has some really good baseball

Commentary

The high school baseball playoffs are still a month away, but after the entire spring scholastic sports season was called off last year, it’s never too early to look ahead.

One baseball classification to keep your eyes on in District 6 is Class 3A.

The PIAA Class 3A champion has come from District 6 in three of the last four years the tournament has been held.

Bellefonte started the run in 2016 with a 2-0 victory over Susquehanna Township. Central beat Holy Redeemer, 6-2, for the state title in 2017, and Mount Union defeated Notre Dame GP, 9-0, in the 2019 championship game.

In 2018, the only year District 6 didn’t win it all the past four tournaments, both District 6 representatives, Huntingdon and Bald Eagle Area, won a state playoff game, and Central actually beat Huntingdon in the PIAA semifinals in 2017, avenging a loss in the District 6 final.

A lot of District 6’s success at the 3A classification is because that’s where the majority of the teams in the Mountain League fall.

Though his team will be leaving the Mountain League for the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference next season, Central coach A.J. Hoenstine gave the conference the Scarlet Dragons are leaving a ringing endorsement after playing Tyrone in the Altoona Curve Classic last week at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“I don’t want to give the Laurel Highlands any bulletin board material, but I have always said the Mountain League is the best small-school conference in the state,” Hoenstine said. “I told (Tyrone coach Kevin) Soellner before our game, we were at 5-3 with Huntingdon in the fifth, and they are struggling a little bit this year. But anyone can beat anyone in the Mountain League. There are some really good arms, as usual. If you run into any team’s No. 1, you’re going to have your hands full. It’s fantastic baseball, and we love playing in it.”

Huntingdon is unlikely to be part of the playoff field this season, but Mountain League members Central, Tyrone, Philipsburg-Osceola, Penns Valley and Bald Eagle Area could all make a run in this year’s 3A postseason.

The Golden Eagles were the top seed in 2019 before being upset at home by eventual state champion Mount Union and return plenty of talent from that team. Tyrone showed off its potential last week by beating Central, Altoona and Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic en route to the Curve Classic title.

But, just as Hoenstine alluded to, the Golden Eagles ran into hot pitching on Monday and lost, 2-1, to Bald Eagle Area. The Golden Eagles have also already lost to Philipsburg-Osceola, which just happens to have one of the better pitchers in the area in Ryan Whitehead, who led P-O to a state playoff win over the WPIAL champion as a sophomore.

The Curve Classic loss to Tyrone is Central’s only setback of the season, and the Scarlet Dragons can boast that they have three Division I players batting one through three in their lineup. No. 4 hitter Hunter Smith is only a freshman, so it’s possible he could join them at some point.

In addition to the Mountain League teams, District 6 Class 3A features Bellwood-Antis, which won the 2003 Class 1A championship over Elk Lake, Forest Hills, which was off to a 3-0 start this year, Richland, Central Cambria and Westmont Hilltop.

The PIAA is leaning toward a normal bracket in spring, unlike the champions-only tournaments in fall and winter. With the depth of District 6 Class 3A’s baseball field, that could mean another PIAA semifinal rematch between District 6 teams down the road, and there are certainly several teams in the field that have a chance to be playing at State College’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for a PIAA championship later this year.

Michael Boytim can be reached at mboytim@altoonamirror.com or 814-946-7521. Follow him on Twitter @BoytimMichael

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