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Central looks to complete dream season

PIAA 3A final

Who: Central vs. Lancaster Catholic

When: Today, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park

TV: Live Stream on PCN Select for a fee. Go to pentv.com/how-to-watch for more information.

Radio: WTRN-FM 96.9 & 100.7

By Michael Boytim

mboytim@altoonamirror.com

MARTINSBURG — For one full year, all Central’s baseball team talked about was making it back to the PIAA semifinals to avenge last year’s loss and play for a state championship.

Today, the Scarlet Dragons get that opportunity at University Park’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park at 1:30 p.m. when they take on District 3 champion Lancaster Catholic for the PIAA Class 3A title.

“It would mean a lot to win,” Central senior outfielder Paxton Kling said. “We have all been hoping for this, wishing for it and dreaming about it. Last year, we lost in the semifinals, so to get to our first championship means a lot. It’s going to be a fun experience.”

Central will be playing its fifth state championship game in baseball. The Scarlet Dragons are 1-3 in their previous appearances but won the last time they made it in 2017. Lancaster Catholic won the 3A title the very next season, its first in school history.

“The majority of them were in eighth grade if not freshmen,” Lancaster Catholic coach Steve Remley said. “Knowing that they would be attending Catholic High and growing up around them, that was a good aspect from them to learn from and set the bar for what they can achieve.”

Of course, many players on this year’s Central team felt the same way about the Dragons’ 2017 team.

“We work for it every day,” Kling said. “It’s not just me. Our guys work hard, from our freshmen to our seniors, we just get our shirts drenched every day, because we fly around and work like Coach Hoenstine wants us to.”

Lancaster Catholic has been propelled through the state playoffs by junior left-handed pitcher Noah Zimmerman, who was the winning pitcher in the Crusaders’ 3-0 semifinal win over Neumann-Goretti on Monday. Zimmerman, who has struck out 102 batters in 65• innings this season, reached his total pitches allowed limit in the seventh inning but is eligible to pitch again today due to three full days between the games.

“Noah is definitely one of our catalysts on the mound, but we have different weapons that we can bring in at any point,” Remley said. “Zimmerman has been a quality pitcher for us this year, but we also have other pitchers we know that we can rely on.”

Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said it will be his team’s focus to get to those other pitches as soon as possible.

“It’s going to be critical to make him go deep in counts, foul off two-strike pitches and really make him work,” Hoenstine said. “We need to do whatever we can do to get guys on base and put pressure on him and make him think when he’s throwing from the stretch. We have been working on that all year.”

If Zimmerman does leave the mound, it’s likely Lancaster will turn to senior Brandon Wingeroth, who along with his brother Nathan, is one of the team’s top hitters with an average of .465, 30 RBIs and three home runs.

“They look like a real athletic team led by the Wingeroth brothers,” Hoenstine said. “We’re going to have to do a good job keeping them off the bases. They are pretty solid top to bottom. Our key is always throwing strikes. We have a lot of confidence in our pitchers. We need them to throw strikes, and we’ll make the plays behind them.”

Central likely won’t have its best arm during the regular season and District 6 playoffs, senior Jonah Snowberger, available due to an elbow injury. Snowberger has been able to stay in the lineup as a designated hitter but doubts he will be able to pitch today.

“Probably not,” Snowberger said. “But I just want to focus on helping the team win, even if it’s not on the mound. It’s great to still be in the lineup and be pain free, but even if I wasn’t hitting, I would just be glad to be on this ride with everybody here.”

That doesn’t mean Hoenstine isn’t confident in whoever ends up on the mound.

“We’ll see how Snowberger is feeling, but we have (Devon) Boyles, (Jake) Detwiler and (Ty) Helsel,” Hoenstine said. “We may throw all three of those guys. Devon and Ty got some work Monday, so we’ll see how they are feeling. We’ll probably make the call Thursday night.”

Like Central, Lancaster Catholic is balanced.

“We have continuity with each other and a good group of guys,” Remley said. “It’s a team. Not just one individual. It takes a team to win, and we understand that. We preach that aspect. They are definitely and good team. Their record speaks for itself. I think it’s going to be a good game. We are both two good teams. For us to come out on top, we’re going to have to play a good seven innings.”

Kling, Boyles, Snowberger, Helsel and Parker Gregg will all be in the starting lineup and playing their final game for Central.

“It’s really exciting to have one last game with my brothers as our high school careers end,” Gregg said. “We worked really hard for this, and we’re excited.”

Hoenstine believes all of that experience will pay off.

“We have talked about how we haven’t played in a lot of close games, but these guys have played close games in other sports and throughout their careers playing across the coast together in close games with travel teams,” Hoenstine said. “I don’t think the big moment is going to make them think twice.”

Kling, who is committed to LSU but also will likely be a high draft pick in the Major League Baseball draft in July, agreed.

“It’s just another baseball game,” Kling said. “It’s special that I get to play with these guys one more time, but it’s a game we have been playing since we were little. We’re just doing to do everything we can to play our game and go out and play well.”

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