C.R. South's drive to State College has been marked by lights-out pitching. District 1's runner-up has allowed only three runs in as many state contests.
La Salle, in its last two state victories, overcame deficits with later-inning outbursts on offense. Before prevailing in the semifinals and quarterfinals, District 12's titlist had trailed Hatboro-Horsham and Central Dauphin by 5-2 and 5-3, respectively.
For C.R. South, seniors Bret DeStefano, expected to start against La Salle, and Brian Donnelly have been all but unhittable lately.
In Monday's 4-0 semifinal blanking of District 6's Altoona, Donnelly, a righthander, fired a one-hitter. In the quarterfinals, DeStefano, a lefthander, tossed a five-hitter with six strikeouts in a 5-1 win over Coatesville.
For the season, DeStefano, who doubles as a leftfielder and is headed to Kutztown, is 9-1 with a 2.02 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 68 innings. Donnelly, a Rider signee who will begin Friday's final in center field, is 10-1 with a 1.86 ERA and 63 K's in 79 innings.
La Salle is no slouch, either, in the pitching department. Senior righthander Kevin Long, a Lehigh recruit and Friday's starter, is 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 70 innings. Dom Cuoci, a sophomore righthander, is 9-0 with a 1.56 ERA and 50 K's in 63 innings.
C.R. South's offensive catalyst has been rightfielder Jeff Miller. The senior cleanup man is batting .415 with 30 RBIs and 25 runs.
Next in line for the senior-dominated Golden Hawks (23-2) are second baseman and leadoff man Zach Fitzgerald (.377, 16, 31), DeStefano (.371, 22, 18), Donnelly (.368, 30, 21), and catcher Dan Callahan (.351, 27, 2).
The Explorers (23-3) have been fueled at the plate by catcher Corey Baiada (.486, 31, 25), second baseman Colin Pyne (.432, 24, 23), first baseman Chris Melillo (.410, 24, 23), rightfielder Tyler Kozeniewski (.391, 21, 14), and leftfielder-shortstop P.J. Acierno (.393, 31, 25).
In seven playoff outings, La Salle, which is in position to become District 12's first state baseball champion, is averaging eight runs.
C.R. South is aiming to become the fourth straight District 1 squad to claim top honors in Class AAAA.
Contact Rick O'Brien
or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone