Spring-Ford, Conestoga aim for final

Spring-Ford's Ricky Gorrell tags out Greg Corialos of West Chester East in a May 27 game. Spring-Ford plays Manheim Township on Monday in a state semifinal.
Spring-Ford's Ricky Gorrell tags out Greg Corialos of West Chester East in a May 27 game. Spring-Ford plays Manheim Township on Monday in a state semifinal. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 13, 2011

Spring-Ford and Conestoga have both flirted with capturing a PIAA state baseball championship.

In 2008, Spring-Ford advanced to the final before bowing to District 7's Canon-McMillan. In 1985, Conestoga, behind ace pitcher Rick Balabon, made it to the semifinals before being edged by District 4's Montoursville.

Monday, in separate Class AAAA semifinals, the Rams and Pioneers will try to move closer to statewide glory.

Spring-Ford will clash with District 3 runner-up Manheim Township at 6 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium in Ephrata. Conestoga will battle Seneca Valley, District 7's titlist, at 4 p.m. at Green Township Park in Scotland, near Chambersburg.

In the district and state playoffs, the Rams (24-4) have won six games by a combined score of 69-19. Overcoming six errors, Spring-Ford scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to nip Council Rock South, 6-5, in the quarterfinals.

In their six playoff games, the Pioneers (20-4) have won by a combined 57-43. In the quarterfinals, with a 14-hit attack and a solid effort from junior lefthander Adam Rusenko, Conestoga ousted Methacton, 13-3, in five innings.

Against Manheim Township, Spring-Ford, ranked No. 1 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, will send senior righthander Mike Oczypok to the mound. He has a 13-0 record with an ERA of about 1.00.

For No. 3 Conestoga, senior lefty Austin Little (7-0 record) will take the hill against Seneca Valley.

Averaging nearly 12 runs a game in the playoffs, the Rams are dangerous throughout the order. The catalysts include leadoff batter Patrick Medley (.380), No. 3 batter Ricky Gorrell (.378), cleanup man James Hoff (.393), and No. 6 Cody Clarke (.397).

Oczypok, the Pioneer Athletic Conference's most valuable player, is batting .375 from the No. 5 hole; No. 7 Ryan Conway (.324) has slugged five home runs in the last three games; and Josh Cratsenberg, batting either eighth or ninth, is hitting a team-best .437.

"The team chemistry is outstanding," Spring-Ford coach Bruce Brobst said. "The kids believe in themselves and each other. That means a lot."

Cameron Gallagher, Manheim Township's catcher, was selected 65th overall by the Kansas City Royals in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft last week. Before a 5-0 quarterfinal win over District 11 champ Nazareth, he was hitting .409 with four home runs.

Adam Yunginger, a righthander with a fastball clocked in the mid-80-m.p.h. range, is expected to start for the Blue Streaks (18-7). He belted a three-run homer and stroked an RBI single vs. Nazareth.

Conestoga, which shared the Central League crown with Marple Newtown, has been powered on offense by Shea Rosadino, Scott Williams, Brian Cizek, Brendan O'Reilly, and No. 9 man Tom Richter.

Against Methacton, Rosadino, a third baseman and leadoff hitter, went 3 for 4 with two runs; Williams, a junior catcher and University of Virginia recruit, ripped a two-run triple in the first inning; and Richter, a freshman second baseman batting better than .400 for the season, was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a pair of runs.

Of Little, Pioneers coach John Vogan said, "He keeps the ball down, changes speeds well, and throws strikes. He stays focused. The kid never loses his composure."

Seneca Valley (18-3) is expected to start Matt Smith, a hard-throwing junior righthander with a 10-1 record.

In a 6-4 quarterfinal triumph over Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) rival Peters Township, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Smith yielded 10 hits and five walks.

The Raiders' offensive stalwarts include shortstop Sam Fragale, second baseman Jack Graham, and outfielders Kyle Gorniak, Christian Durbin, and Jonathan Dorogy.

In 1985, when Conestoga lost to Montoursville, 4-3, in a semifinal at Shippensburg University, Vogan was a volunteer assistant under then-skipper Tom Keyser.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019

or robrien@phillynews.com.

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