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Baseball 2017 quick hits: What you need to know

Dates to remember: Sectional play begins on May 18. The finals will be held on Saturday, May 27. The Far West Regionals will be staged on Saturday, June 4, as various Section V locations.

The goal: The State Championships are back in Binghamton and Endicott. The games will be played June 9-11.

2016 Sectional Champions: AA - Lancaster; A/A1 - Williamsville East; A2 - Iroquois; B/B2 - Fredonia; B1 - Alden; C - Frewsburg; D - Westfield. Fredonia has claimed six straight Section VI titles, the longest such active baseball streak in the area.

Far West Regional Champions from Section VI: Williamsville East and Fredonia advanced to the state championships; both teams lost in the final.

Any other rule changes?: You may notice one from the Msgr. Martin Athletic Association. It has put in a 10-run mercy rule this season, which cuts one-sided games short by a couple of innings. That should aid the pitching staffs of some weaker teams who otherwise could go flying up to pitch count limits during games.

Mergers: It wouldn't be a story about high school sports these days without touching on combined teams. This year, there are three new ones. Ellicottville and West Valley have combined forces, MED and Bennett will suit up together, and Silver Creek and Forestville will be on the same side. Meanwhile, Salamanca has split off from Cattaraugus-Little Valley and will be on its own again this season.

Weather: It's been a soggy spring in Western New York, and that means plenty of postponements of games. For example, Canisius has been practicing since March 1, and it finally played its first league game last weekend. That makes it difficult to pick out the best teams. We'll have to see if teams that get in more games early in the season because of artificial turf have an advantage this season.

Remember him? Dan Dallas of Canisius was the 2016 Prep Talk Player of the Year in baseball. He signed a contract with the contract with the San Diego Padres, and currently is in extended spring training with that team.

Once mid-June rolls around, Dallas probably will report to the Padres' Class A affiliate, the Northwest League's Tri-City Dust Devils of Pasco, Washington. That's near Tacoma. If he does well, he might earn a promotion to another Class A team, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Tin Caps.

About this game: From Section VI chairman Jim Conley, on the occasional difficulty of recruiting players to his favorite sport: "One thing about baseball - you have to find kids that can handle failure. Baseball is filled with failure. If you hit .300, you can make millions."

And the Prep Talk Athlete of the Year will be: Castillo of Lancaster is considered to be the best pro prospect in the area. He was a first-team Class AA All-New York State selection as a junior. If he stays healthy, he's the top candidate for this award - which will be handed out at the awards banquet on June 14 at the Hyatt Regency.

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