We’re down to two baseball teams, and both are trying to make history.
Marple Newtown and Bensalem are a victory away from their first PIAA state championships.
Marple Newtown will face District 3’s Lower Dauphin for top Class 5A honors at 6 p.m., Thursday, at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Bensalem will square off against District 7’s Canon-McMillan at 3:30 p.m., Friday, also on Penn State’s main campus.
Here is a closer look at the finals:
Marple Newtown (24-2) vs. Lower Dauphin (23-3).
TV: Live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
Marple Newtown, guided by second-year coach Mark Jordan, is closing in on its first crown for the second time in three years. The Tigers lost to District 7’s Plum, 7-2, in a Class 4A semifinal in 2016.
Junior lefthander Alden Mathes struck out 10 and limited District 7’s West Allegheny to two singles over 6 1/3 innings, as Marple Newtown advanced Tuesday with a 1-0 win.
Fellow southpaw Luke Zimmerman threw only seven pitches in relief of Mathes, who also plays center field, to close the semifinal win. The St. Joseph’s-bound Zimmerman is slated to start against Lower Dauphin.
Zimmerman, who doubles as a first baseman, is 10-0 with a 0.71 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 69 innings. He has yielded 40 hits, 15 walks, and seven earned runs.
Lower Dauphin, outside of Hershey, is expected to counter with Ryan Kutz. The junior righthander is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
The Falcons’ offense is sparked by catcher Tommy Bramley (.521 batting average, 34 RBIs, 24 runs), centerfielder and leadoff man Clay Spencer (.357, 25 runs, 16 RBIs), and second baseman Josh Saufley (.419, 28 runs, 15 RBIs).
Marple Newtown’s best hitters are Zimmerman (.480, 37 RBIs, 25 runs), Mathes (.442, 35 runs, 18 RBIs), catcher Luke Cantwell (.441, 28 RBIs), and shortstop Kevin Merrone (.434, 30 RBIs, 20 runs).
Bensalem (23-3) vs. Canon-McMillan (20-5).
Bensalem is fresh off a dramatic 5-4, eight-inning victory over La Salle. The Owls rallied to beat the Explorers after trailing, 4-1, entering the sixth inning.
Canon-McMillan, about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, reached the final by beating Council Rock North, 4-1, on Tuesday.
The Big Macs have a pair of solid righthanders in senior Zach Rohaley and junior Cam Weston. Weston is a Michigan recruit whose fastball has been clocked in the low-90-mph range.
Rohaley threw 76 pitches against Council Rock North, but he is eligible to pitch on two days’ rest because he was at 74 pitches before he faced his last batter. He was credited with 75 pitches for the appearance.
The Owls have three possible starters: righthanders Nick Dean and Dom Grady and southpaw Nick Fossile. Dean, a junior and Maryland recruit, threw 40 pitches in relief against La Salle and earned the win.
Canon-McMillan’s offensive spark plugs include shortstop Cam Walker, outfielder Brandon Kline, and first baseman and pitcher Ian Hess.
Bensalem, which is directed by fifth-year skipper Harry Daut, is led offensively by Dean, also a second baseman; shortstop Brian Swentkowski, centerfielder Keith Parrish, second baseman and pitcher Stephen Aldrich, and leftfielder Jon Revell.