And then there were three.
North Penn, District 1's No. 5 seed, and District 12 champions St. Joseph's Prep and Neumann-Goretti are set to play today in the PIAA state baseball semifinals. Representing the Catholic League, the Prep and Neumann-Goretti are first-time state participants.
If North Penn and the Prep win today, the area squads would clash in a Class AAAA final that is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona.
Neumann-Goretti is vying for statewide glory at the Class AAA level.
Here is a look at the semifinal matchups, along with the predicted winner in each.
St. Joseph's Prep (16-8) vs. Parkland (20-6), at Spring-Ford High, 2 p.m.
The Hawks were all but written off after losing to Neumann-Goretti, 10-9, in nine innings in a Catholic League semifinal May 22. Now, they are two victories away from a state crown.
Parkland, the District 11 champ, also has lived on the edge. The Trojans overcame a 6-0 deficit - they got four runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth - to eliminate Northampton, 8-6, in their district semifinal.
Their leaders are shortstop Dan Klem and third baseman M.J. Miorelli, headed for La Salle and St. Joseph's, respectively. Another stalwart is catcher Jon Gabriel.
At the top of Parkland's batting order are rightfielder Andy Brandsetter (hitting .376 with 24 runs scored before a 7-1 state quarterfinal win over Wyoming Valley West), Miorelli (.416, 22 RBIs, 21 runs), Gabriel (.476, 21, 22), and Klem (.362, 27, 21).
On the mound, the Lehigh Valley Conference champions are expected to start Andrew Kulp. The righthander is 7-0 with a 2.36 ERA and 63 whiffs in 531/3 innings. He has walked 24.
Behind a three-hit, complete-game effort from Kyle Mullen, the Prep edged District 1 titlist West Chester East, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. Fellow senior righthander Kevin Gillen will go today. The Johns Hopkins recruit is 7-3 with a 2.15 ERA and 72 Ks in 612/3 innings.
The Hawks are on a roll, but the three left-side infield errors vs. W.C. East are scary. The Trojans will make them pay for any slip-ups. Pick: Parkland, 4-2.
North Penn (18-6) vs. North Allegheny (23-2), at Green Township Park in Scotland, 4 p.m.
In the first two rounds, the Knights rode the pitching of Winthrop-bound standout Eric Ruth. This time, it's fellow senior righthander Mike Bradstreet's turn to quiet the bats.
Bradstreet, with an ERA under 2.00, plans to be a walk-on player at Rhode Island. "He can be very effective," Knights coach Bob McCreary said. "He keeps the ball down, throws strikes, and throws multiple pitches."
The senior-laden Tigers are within a win of their sixth appearance in a state final. Their catalysts include centerfielder Jon Wilson, a Maryland recruit, junior righthanded pitcher Ryan Oglesby, and designated hitter Sean Oglesby.
In Saturday's 2-1 quarterfinal win over Council Rock North, North Penn received solid efforts from the bottom part of its order. The top portion is spurred by shortstop Robbie Zinsmeister, centerfielder Justin Davey, first baseman Scott Christy and catcher Matt Albaugh.
Bradstreet is a top-notch No. 2 hurler. We think that spells a shutout victory for the Knights. Pick: North Penn, 2-0.
Neumann-Goretti (20-3) vs. Abington Heights (17-3), at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg, 4:30 p.m.
In the past, the Saints and Comets were best known for their basketball and football programs, respectively.
The District 2 champs have scored 57 runs in six playoffs contests. They are sparked by shortstop-pitcher Cory Spangenberg, outfielder-pitcher Steve Mills, and second baseman Mike Umerich.
Junior righthander Al Baur will start for the Catholic League champions. He is 8-0 with a 1.70 ERA and 71 K's in 56 innings.
The Saints have been oozing confidence in the playoffs. They beat a quality Twin Valley team to get here. Pick: Neumann-Goretti, 3-1.