Franklin a Step Away from PIAA Baseball Title Game
DUBOIS, Pa. (EYT) – A year ago, Franklin’s baseball team watched as neighboring Rocky Grove, who plays in the same Little League system, became the first District 10 team to capture a PIAA baseball title.
(Photo of Franklin’s Kaden Keely. Photo by Jared Bakaysa of JB Graphics. See more of Bakaysa’s work here)
Fast forward just a little under 365 days, and now the Knights are in a position to possibly become the second D10 team to win a title in as many years.
Franklin, the District 10 Class 3A champion, can reach the championship contest for the first time in school history with a win over District 6 champion Mount Union in a semifinal game that is slated for 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 10, at Showers Field in DuBois, weather permitting. (Note the game will now be played at 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, at Showers Field in DuBOis).
The Knights (23-1) have reached the semifinals for the first time in school history with wins over Freeport, 3-2, and Philipsburg-Osceola, 6-3, in the first two rounds of the PIAA playoffs.
They now face a Mount Union team (23-3) that has beaten Biglersville, 10-4, and Hopewell, 4-0, to reach the semifinals. The Trojans are no strangers to PIAA success winning Class 2A titles in the old two-classification system in 1988, 1993 and 1995 and finishing second in 1980 and 1996. They are back in the semifinals for the first time since reaching the 2010 semifinals, losing, 1-0, to Beaver.
This year’s semifinal contest will most likely come down to pitching.
Franklin will send its ace, Ian Haynes, to the hill where he will most likely be countered by Mount Union’s Dylan Gearhart.
Haynes, a junior, hasn’t lost a game since his freshman season going 14-0 over the last two years including 9-0 this season with a 1.61 ERA. In 12 appearances lasting 61 innings, Haynes has allowed 14 earned runs on 38 hits, 26 walks and three hit batters. He has struck out 56, and opponents are batting .170 off him.
In his last outing, Franklin’s 3-2 walk-off win over Freeport Monday, June 3, Haynes went 6 ⅔ innings giving up two runs, one earned, on seven hits and a walk while striking out nine. He received a no-decision.
Gearhart has been fantastic this season. The senior is 8-2 with a 0.62 ERA. In 67 ⅓ innings, he has allowed 10 runs, just six earned, on 46 hits. He has struck out 81 while walking just seven.
Four of the runs, two earned, however, against Gearhart came in the opening round PIAA win over Biglersville when he gave up a season-high 10 hits while walking one and striking out eight in six innings of work. That game came six days after he threw a nine-inning, 1-0, five-hit shutout in the District 6 championship against Philipsburg-Osceola. He has given up 22 of the 46 hits he has allowed on the season in his last three starts but opponents are hitting just .189 against him this year.
If Gearhart would struggle, the Trojans could possibly turn to Seth Smith, who is 9-0 on the year with a 1.39 ERA. Smith threw 82 pitches Thursday in the win over Hopewell and will be eligible to pitch Monday.
Gearhart will face a formidable Franklin lineup that has three regulars hitting over .400 led by shortstop Connor Rakow, who is hitting .464 with three home runs, nine doubles, two triples and 25 RBIs.
Centerfielder Kaden Keely checks in at .429 with a pair of home runs, 11 doubles, two triples and 29 RBIs, while Haynes is hitting .423 with four doubles and a team-leading 30 RBIs.
Bubba Rhoads, the first baseman, also chimes in at a .389 clip with 20 RBIs, while freshman Carson Wible has been a boon at the bottom of the lineup hitting .373 with a home run and seven doubles while driving in 18.
Mount Union has a pair of regulars hitting over .400 as well led by Gearhart, who is hitting a team-leading .464 with three home runs, nine doubles and a team-best 39 RBIs. Ethan Carbaugh checks in at .430 with 15 RBIs, while Matt Harshbarger has scored a team-leading 34 runs while hitting .366. Smith also hits .366, while Quinnten Fritz comes in at .395.
The winner will face the winner of the Norte-Dame Greenpond vs. Lake Lehman game in the title game at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State University. The NDG/Lake Lehman game is slated for 4:30 p.m. Monday at Pottsville Area High School.
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