UNIVERSITY PARK — After a thrilling walkoff 1-0 win on an error in the PIAA Class A semifinals on Monday against Greensburg Central Catholic, the Clarion baseball team will be playing for all the marbles on Thursday afternoon.
The Bobcats will be facing Meyersdale, the champions out of District 5. The Red Raiders advanced to the state finals with a 2-1 win in eight innings over High Point. Meyersdale also won in the semis on a walkoff, with theirs coming on a bases loaded walk.
Prior to the semifinals, Meyersdale defeated District 6 runner up Homer-Center, 6-1, in the first round, and District 3 runner-up Millersburg, 9-0, in the quarterfinals.
And the PIAA state championship is no stranger to the Red Raiders. They were just in the Class A final, where they fell to Vincentian Academy, 5-2. DuBois Central Catholic nearly beat Vincentian in the first round last year, but ended up falling in a wild, 4-3 13-inning battle.
Prior to last year’s state tournament, Meyersdale had not been in the PIAA Tournament since the 2002 season when they lost in the state semifinals.
The Red Raiders will be trying to get the job done this year with many of the same faces as they had last year.
Senior Riley Christner leads the team at the plate with an astounding .568 batting average. He has smacked six home runs, nine doubles, and four triples, and has driven in 43 RBIs on the year. Senior Zach Hotchkiss is next at .449 with a homer, seven doubles and 35 RBIs.
Christner has also led the way in pitching, coming in with a 9-1 record and a 0.61 earned run average. He threw five innings in the win on Monday, but will be eligible on Thursday as he needed just 58 pitches to get through the five innings.
Against High Point, he allowed just one hit on no runs, walked one and struck out eight.
Out of the 26 players on Meyersdale’s roster, 11 of them are freshmen, with some getting significant playing time. The Raiders have just five seniors.
Meyersdale comes into the game with a 20-6 record. They lost once to Berlin Brothersvalley early in the season, which Clarion beat in the first round of states. They also have two wins against Berlin, including in the District 5 Class A championship game.
As for Clarion, Reed Anthony has pitched the majority of the innings in the state tournament. He tossed six scoreless innings and 95 pitches in Monday’s win over Greensburg Central Catholic, and will not be eligible for the state championship barring any rainouts.
Spencer Miller came on in the top of the seventh and earned the win. Miller, Ryan Anthony and Sterling Conner would be the most likely candidates that are given the ball by coach Rob Jewett on Thursday.
Before Monday’s 1-0 win over Greensburg Central Catholic in the semis, Clarion got to the final by beating Berlin Brothersvalley, 4-3, in the first round and District 9 foe Elk County Catholic, 3-0, in the quarters.
At the plate, Miller comes in leading the team with a .435 average and collected two big hits for his team in Monday’s win. The Bobcats only have one other starter that has a batting average over .300 in Ryan Anthony, who comes in at .333.
However, defense has been the key for the Bobcats over this unlikely run. They have only committed one error in three games during the PIAA Tournament.
Like Meyersdale, Clarion (21-3) features a young roster. On their 15-player roster, the Bobcats have just four seniors in Reed Anthony, Ryan Anthony, Dominic Fleming and Kyle Patterson.
First pitch is set for 12:30 p.m. at Penn State University’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.