Selinsgrove’s two-week run to today’s state semifinal baseball game has been dotted with more adversity than one might guess.
After playing five games over the final four days of the regular season — and losing the last three — the Seals endured a six-day layoff ahead of the district playoffs.
Late in the evening on the day following their district semifinal win, the Seals coaching staff was informed the team had not clinched a Class 4A state playoff berth as outlined. Instead, a play-in game against the District 11 runner-up was arranged for the District 4 runner-up each of the next two seasons so that neither district would be short-changed by the original plan which alternated one district receiving two berths while the other received one.
Then the district final was postponed a day by inclement weather (and eventually played in neighboring District 2), which forced the runner-up to play on consecutive days. Selinsgrove avoided the play-in game when Ben Heim’s seventh-inning sacrifice fly eked out a 2-1 district title win over Danville.
Seals ace Logan Hile’s hamstring tightened while he pitched through problems with Bowman Field’s mound in the state opener. He got both issues straightened out and pitched six-plus shutout innings against Kennard-Dale.
And Thursday, Selinsgrove arrived at Northern York High after being told it would be the home team for the state quarterfinal with Springfield Township. Instead, a pregame coin flip was conducted which the Seals lost, forcing them to play as the visitor. Then, after two costly misplays in the field, they trailed 3-1 at the end of one inning.
Add it all up and, of course, Selinsgrove has won four in a row and is one win away from playing for the state championship.
“We’re in a very exciting time right now,” said Seals coach Brent Beiler, who is 196-180 in his 18th season.
Selinsgrove (18-5) plays District 3 runner-up Hamburg (21-7) at 4 p.m. today at Central Columbia H.S. The winner advances to the state final (1:30 p.m. Friday at Penn State’s Medlar Field) against either District 3 champion East Pennsboro (24-2) or District 7 champion Beaver (16-7).
Hamburg is led by its senior class, a nine-player group that includes five starters.
Jared Sterner (7-0, 2.02 ERA), Reece Adam (3-1, 2.38) and Ethan Naftzinger (3-4, 3.62) head the pitching staff along with junior Colby Gromlich (5-1, 2.56).
The Hawks’ lineup is keyed by Adam (.333 average, 30 runs scored) at the top of a potent first five. The heart of the order boasts junior Owen Zimmerman (.349, 27 RBIs) and seniors Austin Gromlich (.329, 22 RBIs) and Brady Adams (.313, 19 RBIs).
Tarik Feick, a junior, was promoted to the two-hole from No. 8 following a late-season loss to Twin Valley. Feick hit .385 since the switch (15-for-39), including a team-best .429 in the postseason, as the Hawks went 9-2 with two wins over Twin Valley. Their only losses in that stretch were to Wilson in the Berks County playoffs final and East Pennsboro in the district title game.
Hamburg’s starters, however, have batted a collective .254 in five playoff games (31-for-122) which lowered their season average to .300.
Selinsgrove, conversely, has batted .298 in the postseason (28-for-94), which boosted the overall team average to .275. They Seals have also pitched to a 0.25 ERA — allowing one earned run in 28 innings over four playoff games — to trim the team ERA to 1.35. The left-handed Hile is 3-0 with an 0.00 ERA in 18 2/3 postseason innings.
“We’re getting the outs in the field — we’re making the plays — we’re getting hits and we’re winning games,” said Selinsgrove senior Blaise Zeiders, who is 8-0 with a 1.69 ERA and batting .281 with 13 RBIs on the season.
Freshman shortstop Teague Hoover leads the Seals in average (.366) and runs scored (17), while junior catcher Wyatt Metzger has team-high totals of RBIs (15) and home runs (four).
Hamburg has hit just three home runs as a team — two by Zimmerman, one by Austin Gromlich. Zimmerman’s two-run shot in the third inning of Thursday’s state quarterfinal put the Hawks ahead to stay against District 11 champion North Schuylkill. They scored a key insurance run in the seventh inning of the 3-2 win that ended when the Spartans’ Reggie Crawford, a .488 hitter and 37th-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals earlier in the week — lined out to the left field with the bases loaded.
Hamburg’s only district championship occurred in 2016 and produced the program’s only state playoff berth. The Hawks advanced to the Class 3A semifinals that season before bowing to eventual state champion Bellefonte, 5-4.
Selinsgrove made program history with its first state playoff win after 3A first-round losses in 1991 (Liberty, 9-0), 2009 (Twin Valley, 7-5) and 2016 (North Pocono, 3-2).
“Really it just felt good to be out on the field, playing with my friends, and everyone enjoying it,” said Zeiders.