In what is a first in the tournament's 34-year history, the PIAA large-school-classification baseball championship is an all-District 1 affair.
Owen J. Roberts, of the Pioneer Athletic Conference, and West Chester Henderson, of the Ches-Mont League National Division, will play for the Class AAAA title at 1 p.m. Friday at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona.
OJR, which placed third in the District 1 playoffs, enters with 25-4 record; Henderson, runner-up to Council Rock North in the district, is 24-4. The schools are about 25 miles apart.
Wildcats coach Greg Gilbert, who has a 207-77 record in 13 years, said the teams have not met during his tenure.
"But I've known [Henderson coach Luke McNichol] for a long time," Gilbert said. "He does a good job with that program."
In 23 seasons with the Warriors, McNichol has a 250-190 record. The team's previous trips to the state tournament, in 2002 and 2006, resulted in first-round losses.
Though both coaches were mum on the subject, junior righthander Tim Ponto is expected to start for Owen J. Roberts against senior lefthander Kyle Hooven.
Ponto, who threw 33 pitches in two innings of scoreless relief in Monday's 1-0 semifinal win over District 3's Lower Dauphin, is 9-2 with a 1.75 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 72 innings. He has allowed 54 hits and walked 27.
Hooven is 8-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 58 innings. The crafty lefty has yielded 55 hits and 12 walks. In a 9-7, nine-inning quarterfinal win over Ches-Mont rival Downingtown East, he started and gave up seven hits and four runs in 51/3 innings.
Also available to pitch for the Wildcats are Jeff Wiand (7-0, 3.02 ERA, 48 strikeouts in 44 innings) and David Vining (6-1, 3.72 ERA, 31 Ks in 32 innings). "They've got three kids who have a lot of experience," McNichol said.
Wiand, a centerfielder and Lehigh recruit, is batting .453 with 37 runs, 34 RBIs, 12 doubles, and 6 homers. The Wildcats' other offensive leaders are first baseman Dave Raifsnider (.489, 27 runs, 29 RBIs), third baseman Rob Patete (.453, 22, 40), leftfielder Paul Kochu (.446, 32, 20), and Penn-bound shortstop Brandon Engelhardt (.406, 40, 24).
Henderson has been spurred at the plate by Hooven (.440, 17 runs, 20 RBIs), centerfielder Chas McCormick (.392, 19, 28), shortstop/pitcher Sean McCormick (.388, 30, 15), and first baseman/pitcher John Iezzi (.385, 14, 19).
Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or email@example.com.