With a trip to the PIAA Class 3A championship game on the line, Mount Union and Franklin put winning streaks on the line Tuesday afternoon at Showers Field in DuBois. The Trojans were able to punch their ticket to State College with a 3-1 victory over the Knights.
The Trojans (24-3), winners of their last nine starts, will play for the state title against Notre Dame-Green Pond, an 8-1 winner over Lake Lehman in yesterday’s other semifinal, in Thursday’s 4 p.m. championship contest at 4 p.m. at Medlar Field and Lubrano Park on the Penn State University campus.
Franklin, which had its 22-game win streak ended, finishes the season with a 23-2 record.
“We’re having a great time,” said Mount Union coach Tim Hicks said after the game. “This was a great game. We hit the ball well and both pitchers were great. Neither walked anybody and they were able to get out of numerous jams.”
Dylan Gearhart went the distance to earn the victory for the Trojans. He struck out two, walked none and scattered 10 hits.
“I used the same approach today that I use every game,” Gearhart stated. “At this level, everybody hits well. I know the defense has my back. This is just surreal. It feels incredible.”
Mount Union got off to a good start in the top of the first. Grayson McClain led off the game with a single down the left field line, then moved to third when Matt Harshbarger singled to right. Gearhart grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, but McClain was able to score. Another groundout ended the inning.
The Knight answered with a single run in the bottom of the inning.
With one out, Tyus Wood reached on an infield single, moved to second on a Conner Rakow single and scored when Austin Rhoads reached on an error. Gearhart stopped Franklin with a pair of strikeouts.
In the bottom of the third, the Knights got one-out singles from Ian Haynes and Marc Knox. Gearhart picked off Knox with an outstanding move to first, then Quinnten Fultz made a sliding catch of Rhoads’ line drive to right to end the innings.
The Trojans took the lead for good in the top of the fourth. With one out, Kobe Hand singled to center and Ethan Carbaugh singled to right-center. After a second out, Fultz drove an 0-2 pitch into the left field corner for a two-run double. He was stranded at second by a groundout.
“On that catch in the third, everything happened so fast,” Fultz related. “When I was hitting, I saw two curve balls to get behind 0-2. Coach (George) Goodling always said that in that situation, look for a fast ball. That’s what I got and I just ripped it down the line.”
“The catch was a tremendous play,” Hicks added. “Then he comes up and hits a two-run single to give us the lead.”
Both teams had base runners in each of the last three innings, but neither was able to score.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Zach Taylor singled and Wood reached when Harshbarger was unable to find the handle on a ground ball to second. Rakow followed with a ground ball to short that started a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
“Matt had the error, but I wasn’t concerned,” said Gearhart. “I knew he’d be involved in the next play and he turned the double play. That’s the way we’re playing the game right now.”
Haynes also went the distance for the Knight. He struck out four, walked none and also gave up 10 hits.
“There guy pitched a great game, too,” Hicks concluded. “We were able to get the key hit to score the go-ahead runs.
“Now we get to play for a state championship. It doesn’t get any better. This is our goal every year and this group has certainly earned it opportunity to make a name for itself.”