By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
Well, it's that time again.
Months of hard work have carried a number of Valley teams to the district playoffs in baseball and softball.
Certain ones, such as Shamokin softball, with a 10-10 record as the sixth seed in the District 4 AAA bracket, squeaked into the postseason and are looking to upset their way to a title.
Others will be able to relax ("relax" being a relative term as there is rarely a calm postseason moment) with a first-round bye and await the winner of a play-in game. One such team with the luxury of added rest is Warrior Run (17-3), which enters the postseason as the top seed in District 4 AA.
The Defenders have benefitted largely from the right arm of a Bloomsburg recruit, senior Taylor Parker. Parker has essentially made the batter's box a revolving door, with seven no-hitters (two of them perfect games) and 11 shutouts. At the plate, Parker has found similar success, leading the area with 35 hits, including five home runs.
If the best teams in the Class AA bracket take care of business, the Defenders will face fourth-seed Southern Columbia in the semifinals in a matchup between two state finalists from a year ago. The Tigers will first have to cool a hot-hitting Lourdes squad before worrying about Warrior Run. Lourdes is led by Charlee Rosini and Emily Long who have each hit well over .400 this season. Southern has its own tough outs at the top of the lineup, led by Tomaschik with an area-best six long balls.
In an area rich with pitching talent, the task for hitters will not be any easier in Class AAA as a higher seed would likely have to best Alli Lloyd and top-seeded Mifflinburg to win a district championship. The senior has tossed six shutouts and has received run support from a plethora of hitters, led by standout freshman Kayla Kline, who can give opposing pitchers fits. Mifflinburg will face the winner of the four-five matchup between Jersey Shore and Danville, with the semifinal coming May 28. The Ironmen have reached the postseason behind Tara Fritz on the mound and Alyssa Shaw and Zina Knight on offense.
Milton, the two seed in AAA, is led by Taylor Batman and Dani Lincoln on the mound. Batman and Lincoln have each tossed a shutout, while combining to throw another in a 12-0 victory over Shikellamy on April 25. The Black Panthers (13-7) have been paced offensively by Mackenna Miller's 27 hits.
Milton will be awaiting the result of the Shamokin-Athens tilt on Thursday to see which team it will face on May 28 for a berth in the district championship game.
The Indians clinched a berth with a win over Midd-West to push their record to 10-9 before dropping their season finale. Olivia Bonshock has laced 17 hits for the Indians to lead the team.
In the District 3 Class A bracket, four-time defending champion Greenwood is in the field with a 6-10 record. Unlike District 4, District 3 uses a points system to qualify teams for the postseason, allowing the Wildcats to qualify. Wildcats outfielder Amy Heggenstaller, a Daily Item preseason All-Star, has been their best hitter. Greenwood will face top seed Upper Dauphin on Thursday in the semifinal round.
On the boys side, Shamokin found a win when it mattered most, winning the second game of a Thursday doubleheader at Central Columbia to qualify in District 4-AAA. The Indians travel to Bowman Field in Williamsport to face top-seeded Jersey Shore on Friday.
In the Class AAA two-three matchup, Midd-West and Mifflinburg will face off at 4:30, also at Bowman Field. Senior southpaw Oakley Whitesel will be a candidate to toe the rubber for Mifflinburg while the Mustangs could send one of three seniors -- Austin Hockenbroch, Alex Lash or Colton Keister -- to the hill. The Mustangs swept the Wildcats during the regular season in Heartland Division I play.
In AA, if Southern Columbia can take out Mansfield at home Tuesday, the Tigers will play at East Juniata in a quarterfinal Friday. Third-seeded East Juniata tied for second in the Tri-Valley League.
In District 3 Class AA, Upper Dauphin, winner of eight of its last nine games, faces Camp Hill today at 4:30.