Of the five area baseball teams still standing, Methacton's presence at the party is the biggest surprise.
It's partly because the Warriors placed fourth in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and were a No. 10 seed out of the North bracket in the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA tournament.
But the top reason many counted out the squad was the turmoil it experienced just before the district playoffs. Three seniors, including two starters, were suspended for prom-related indiscretions.
"It was a pretty disappointing situation," eighth-year Methacton coach Paul Spiewak said. "It was tough for the kids involved and for the team. We had to learn from it and move on."
At 2 p.m. Thursday, Methacton will play Conestoga in the first game of a Class AAAA state-quarterfinal doubleheader at Neumann University in Aston. After that, at about 4:30 p.m., Council Rock South will meet Spring-Ford.
Two of the suspended players (the third is no longer with the team) could be eligible to play for the Warriors if they advance to the June 17 final in State College.
It is the first time Methacton has reached the Elite Eight. In 2006, it placed fourth in districts and bowed to Manheim Township, District 3's champion, in the opening round.
"These kids aren't fazed by anything," Spiewak said. "They just believe they're going to win, no matter the circumstances or odds."
Methaction's catalyst is first baseman-pitcher Joey Casselbury. The junior, a righthander who will start vs. Conestoga, is batting .494 (44 for 89) with 30 RBIs, 15 runs, 9 doubles, and 2 home runs. He has a .663 slugging percentage and .541 on-base mark.
"We've never had anyone flirt with 50 hits in a season," Spiewak said. "He's been really special for us."
The offense also has been keyed by designated hitter Roger Collins (.389, 17 RBIs, 14 runs), shortstop Nick Strizziere (.384, 24 runs, 19 RBIs), third baseman David Toomey (.343, 21 RBIs, 18 runs), and leftfielder Nick Fazio (.307, 22 RBIs, 14 runs).
"The other big thing for us is that we've found ways to get on base at the bottom of the order," Spiewak said. "That sets the plate for the guys up top."
On the mound, Casselbury is 7-3 with a 4.13 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 572/3 innings. Lefthander Steve Dunbar is 4-3 with a 4.83 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 532/3 innings.
On a roll. Calvary Christian Academy, located on Philmont Avenue in Northeast Philly and best known for its Mike Reichenbach-coached football squad, is three wins away from a Class A state title.
Next for the Cougars, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Easton Area High, is a quarterfinal against District 3 titlist Reading Central Catholic.
The leaders for the District 1 champs, coached by Darrell Benjamin, include sophomore pitcher-outfielder Tyler Scheuer, junior first baseman and cocaptain Zach Caldwell, and sophomore second baseman Tony Burgess.
On the mound, Scheuer is 9-3 with a 1.89 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 591/3 innings. The grandson of longtime Associated Press writer Jack Scheuer is hitting .375 with 16 runs and 14 RBIs.
Caldwell is batting .406 with 26 runs, 18 stolen bases, 13 RBIs, and a .488 on-base percentage. Burgess is hitting .500 with 21 runs, 10 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, and a .574 on-base mark.
Sophomore Reilly Degen (2-3, 3.36 ERA, 49 Ks in 45 innings) will get the start against Reading Central Catholic.
Phils pick Ponto. Tim Ponto, a hard-throwing senior righthander for Owen J. Roberts, was drafted by the Phillies in the 39th round of Major League Baseball's first-year player draft.
The 6-foot-7, 205-pounder, who helped lead the Wildcats to a 16-8 record and second place in the PAC-10, is a St. Joseph's signee. His fastball has been clocked in the 88- to-91 m.p.h. range.