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Pitcher Ruth should give Knights the edge in final

Here is a look a today's championship baseball game: What: PIAA Class AAAA state championship game. Who: North Penn vs. Parkland.

Here is a look a today's championship baseball game:

What: PIAA Class AAAA state championship game.

Who: North Penn vs. Parkland.

When: Today, 4:30.

Where: Blair County Ballpark in Altoona.

TV: Tape delay on PCN, Saturday at 9:30 p.m.

Radio: WNPV-AM (1440)

Records: North Penn (19-6); Parkland (21-6).

Coaches: For North Penn, Bob McCreary; for Parkland, Tony Galucy.

How North Penn got here: The Knights went 10-4 in the Suburban League Continental Conference. In the District 1 playoffs, as the No. 4 seed, they placed fifth. After falling to West Chester East in the quarterfinals, they defeated Owen J. Roberts and Great Valley in consolation-round action to earn the district's fifth and final berth in states. In the state tournament, coming out of the West bracket, they ousted Chambersburg, 6-0; Council Rock North, 2-1; and North Allegheny, 12-1.

How Parkland got here: The Trojans won their third straight Lehigh Valley Conference championship. En route to winning the District 11 title, they won a semifinal thriller. With four runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth, they overcame a 6-0 deficit and downed Northampton, 8-6. In the state tournament, coming out of the East bracket, they eliminated Pennridge, 3-2, in eight innings; Wyoming Valley West, 7-1; and St. Joseph's Prep, 6-2.

About North Penn: The Knights have won 13 of their last 14 games. . . . Most of the hitting comes from the top of the order, but the bottom portion of the lineup produced in a big way in the quarterfinals against Council Rock North. No. 9 batter Mark Grassie, No. 8 hitter Jake Dunn, and No. 7 man Jimmy Smith combined for six of the squad's nine hits. . . . Shortstop and leadoff hitter Robbie Zinsmeister is headed to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The Nos. 3 and 4 batters, first baseman Scott Christy and Matt Albaugh, are headed to Alvernia and Kutztown, respectively. . . . Centerfielder and No. 2 batter Justin Davey quarterbacked the football team to a 23-4 record over the last two seasons.

About Parkland: Shortstop Dan Klem (.361 batting average, 27 RBIs, 22 runs) and third baseman MJ Miorelli (.407, 23 and 21) are bound for La Salle and St. Joseph's, respectively. Another senior stalwart is catcher Jon Gabriel (.459, 21, 23). Others to watch, all juniors, are rightfielder and leadoff man Andy Brandsetter (.375, 13, 25), Joe Abeln (.341, 16, 29), and designated hitter Mike Tenaglia (.300, 9, 4).

On the hill: For North Penn, senior ace righthander Eric Ruth gets the call. For the season, the red-hot Winthrop recruit is 11-1 with a 1.25 ERA and 126 whiffs in 781/3 innings. He has yielded 51 hits, 18 runs (14 earned), and 25 walks. For Parkland, junior righthander Casey Cooperman has posted a 6-3 record with a 2.46 ERA and 51 K's in 57 innings. If he gets in any trouble, expect the Trojans to quickly turn to Andrew Kulp. The senior righthander, 7-0 with a 2.36 ERA and 63 K's in 531/3 innings, fired a two-hitter with 11 K's against St. Joseph's Prep. He went into the seventh with a no-hitter.

Analysis. Expect runs for both teams to be hard to come by. Against the Prep, three of Parkland's six runs were unearned. The Trojans benefited from four errors. Ruth has been superb in the playoffs. We don't want to jinx him, but we don't see that changing now. The Knights just need to support him in the field. Parkland, also a senior-heavy squad, will capitalize on any slip-ups.

Pick: Ruth, again, is the difference. North Penn, 3-1.

- Rick O'Brien