The high school baseball and softball seasons are over for local schools, and Friday the PIAA championships are scheduled in State College.

Two Schuylkill County teams made it to the state baseball quarterfinals.

Tamaqua lost a defensive struggle to Jersey shore in the AAA playoffs by a 1-0 score, while Schuylkill Haven lost to Juniata Valley in the Class A event.

In softball, Minersville will be competing Friday for the state title against Halifax in a 2 p.m. game. It's the second time in four years they've made it to states, winning the championship in 2011.

A fourth District 11 team, Bethlehem Catholic, also plays for a state softball championship in the AAA division. Parkland was in the softball semifinals, too. They also are part of District 11.

Five teams from the same district advancing to the quarterfinals in PIAA baseball and softball competition is impressive.

Our area has always had some great players in the two sports, with numerous baseball players advancing to major colleges and even several going onto the pros.

Many high school baseball players will participate in summer leagues before returning to high school or going onto college. Some already play for Legion teams.

It's always great to see local high school students do well, whether it be athletics or academics.

Many people don't realize the amount of work involved for sports teams and the sacrifices the whole family makes. The practice and playing schedules are juggled with academic demands and social duties. There's sacrifices to the families.

That's one of the reasons we at the Times News give so much publicity to local sports teams. We know about the efforts the local kids give, no matter what their record.

That's why we're at the forefront of applauding them with big headlines especially when they do very well in tournaments and playoffs.

For these teams, how many players started with the Little League program? How many learned the basics of the sports when they were 8 or 9 years old and diligently continued playing the game through their high school years?

Sports teams are more than just playing a game. They're about learning commitment, teamwork, having pride, and camaraderie.

That's why it is always sad when school boards cut budgets and target athletic programs. Such cuts do hurt the kids.

We'll be watching with eager anticipation how Minersville and Bethlehem Catholic softball teams do in the state finals of the PIAA playoffs Friday.

Both teams have played many local schools this season, so we've seen them play numerous times and feel a bond with them.

The mere fact that they're in District XI, our local PIAA sporting region, means they're representing us.

Keep your fingers crossed for them.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com