Experience vs. youth in PIAA Class AA baseball final

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In terms of high school baseball experience, if seniors are old, then the PIAA Class AA championship is a matchup of grandpas vs. kids.

It definitely will be old vs. new when Beaver (20-3) plays Loyalsock (21-3) for the title at 3:30 p.m. today at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park in University Park, Pa. Beaver starts eight seniors while Loyalsock starts six sophomores and only one senior.

Beaver will start senior Austin Ross at pitcher while Loyalsock will throw sophomore Kyle Datres. Beaver coach Bruce Herstine simply hopes experience does mean something.

"We did some scouting of [Loyalsock] and they seem to be very good, actually better than we thought with all of their young players. They are very impressive," Herstine said. "But I'm hoping what it comes down to is we have been a team that hasn't panicked all year. I'm hoping with them being so young, and this being such a big game, maybe they tend to get a little tighter than maybe we would."

It seems the only thing tight about Beaver is the fit of their socks.

"If you'd come to see us practice, it is the most unorthodox team you have seen," Herstine said. "It started before the semifinals of the WPIAL. We sometimes practice on our football field because it's turf. Well, one of the kids snuck into the press box and plugged in his iPod [to the public-address system], and then no one had their shirt on and [they were] dancing all over the field.

"We kind of have kept that routine. One day one of our dads filmed practice and said no way anyone would believe we're this good by the way they practice. We've kind of let it go because the kids have stayed so loose, and they're happy and fun when they're practicing. One day, I sat in the bleachers and watched and just laughed."

But Beaver gets serious at game time and the Bobcats pitching has been seriously good. Ross and Austin Logan have pitched all their postseason games and allowed only two runs over the past six postseason games. Beaver has not allowed a run in three PIAA games and the Bobcats are flirting with history.

There have been 27 WPIAL teams that have won PIAA championships since the PIAA started playoffs in 1977. Beaver is trying to become the first from the WPIAL not to allow a run in PIAA play.

"But I think Loyalsock has the same kind of pitching," Herstine said. "We're probably going to have to squeeze out a run any way we can."

Both teams have made one previous PIAA championship appearance. Loyalsock won the 2008 Class AA title while Beaver lost to Reading, 2-1, in the 1983 Class AAA final.

The 1983 Beaver team had two pitchers who eventually pitched in the major leagues -- John Burkett and Doug Piatt. That year, Burkett finished 12-0 and beat Allderdice, 4-3, in the PIAA semifinals despite giving up two home runs to Tom Johnson. Shiloh Icenhour scored the winning run for Beaver.

Piatt finished 10-2 in 1983 and his final loss came to Reading in the PIAA championship game at Shippensburg University. Beaver led, 1-0, until Reading scored two runs in the fifth.

Piatt pitched 21 games in one season in the major leagues and Burkett won 166 games over 15 seasons. At the team hotel Thursday night in State College, Herstine planned to have Burkett speak to the entire team by speaker phone.

"I just want him to talk to them a little and have them realize if they want to be considered great, now they have to go out and do it," Herstine said.

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For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.


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