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PIAA state baseball tourney preview

The PIAA state baseball playoffs, in all classes, are scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon. The tournament is marked by the first-time participation of Catholic League schools.

The PIAA state baseball playoffs, in all classes, are scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon. The tournament is marked by the first-time participation of Catholic League schools.

St. Joseph's Prep (Class AAAA), Neumann-Goretti (AAA), and Kennedy-Kenrick (AA) will represent the league. Each won District 12 titles in their respective classifications.

Here is a look at opening-round games for area squads, along with the predicted winner in each:

Class AAAA

Warwick (District 3, No. 3 seed) vs. West Chester East (1, 1) at Spring-Ford, 2 p.m.

The Vikings, led by top-notch righthanders Neal Herring and Jay Lynch, are trying for their first state title since 2003.

Lynch, bound for Binghamton, is rested after pitching just two innings in Thursday's 6-2 win over Council Rock North. That spells trouble for the Warriors.

Pick: West Chester East, 6-1.

Garnet Valley (1, 4) vs. St. Joseph's Prep (12, 1) at La Salle University, 1 p.m. After losing to Neumann-Goretti in a Catholic League semifinal, the Hawks were granted new life when the Saints beat La Salle in the title game.

Pitching is the difference here. Kyle Mullen, a savvy righthander and St. Joseph's recruit, is expected to go for the Hawks.

Pick: Prep, 9-2.

Pennridge (1, 3) vs. Parkland (11, 1) at Sammy Balliet Stadium in Coplay, 2:30 p.m. The Trojans, three-time Lehigh Valley Conference champions, are boosted by shortstop Dan Klem, a four-year starter, first baseman Mike Tenaglia, and ace hurler Casey Cooperman.

Pennridge has an explosive offense. We think that translates into a first-round upset.

Pick: Pennridge, 6-5.

North Penn (1, 5) vs. Chambersburg (3, 1) at Hershey High, 6:30 p.m. The Knights have a stellar one-two pitching combination in Eric Ruth, a Winthrop recruit, and Mike Bradstreet.

The Trojans, led by pitcher-outfielder Calvin Mentzer and shortstop Garrett Sanders, win a low-scoring contest.

Pick: Chambersburg, 3-2.

Central (12, 2) vs. Council Rock North (1, 2) at Bears Stadium in Boyertown, 4 p.m. The Lancers are hoping for a repeat of 2006, when they advanced to the state semifinals.

The Indians have powerful hitters in Tyler Farrell, Scott Runzer and Kelly Adams. They will be tough outs for workhorse righthander Steve Schall.

Pick: Council Rock North, 9-3.

Class AAA

Palmyra (3, 3) vs. Upper Merion (1, 1) at Radnor, 4 p.m.

The Vikings are banking on continued solid play by pitcher-third baseman Chris Baker, first baseman Ben Dworecki, and outfielder Joel Paradis.

The Cougars, behind shortstop and Delaware recruit Zach Speece, play the role of spoiler.

Pick: Palmyra, 8-5.

Neumann-Goretti (12, 1) vs. Blue Mountain (11, 1) at Walter M. Stump Stadium in Pine Grove, 2 p.m. Mark Donato and company take on the two-time District 11 champions. The Eagles' 13-10 record makes this look like a five-inning mismatch.

Pick: Neumann-Goretti, 13-2.

Class AA

Tulpehocken (3, 2) vs. Kennedy-Kenrick (12, 1) at La Salle University, 4 p.m.

With Christian Walker and Joe Harvey leading the way, the Wolverines will roll.

Pick: Kennedy-Kenrick, 10-3.

Esperanza Charter (12, 2) vs. Brandywine Heights (3, 1) at Memorial Stadium in Ephrata, 3 p.m. This is an imposing challenge for junior catcher Luis Santos and the Toros.

Pick: Brandywine, 10-1.

New Hope-Solebury (1, 1) vs. Pine Grove (11, 1) at Perkiomen Valley, 4 p.m. The Lions were ousted by Lancaster Catholic, 7-4, in the first round last year.

Pick: Pine Grove, 8-2.

GAMP (12, 1) vs. Camp Hill (3, 1) at Hershey High, 4 p.m. The Pioneers are 0 for 4 in the state playoffs. Twice, in 2005 and 2006, they bowed at the AA level.

Pick: Camp Hill, 11-4.

Christopher Dock (1, 1) vs. District 11 champion. Dock takes on the winner of yesterday's rain-delayed district final between Pius X and Williams Valley. Either way, we like the well-rested Pioneers.

Pick: Dock, 7-4.