Eden Christian baseball team reflects on silver season

Saturday, June 22, 2024 | 10:23 AM

The Eden Christian Academy baseball program was wrapped in silver this season.

Eden finished as the runner-up in both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs, losing to undefeated Faith Christian, 4-1, in the Class A state championship game June 14 at Penn State.

The Warriors, who reached the PIAA finals for the second time in four years, ended up 20-6 overall, 5-2 in the postseason and 12-0 in Section 3A.

District 1 champion Faith Christian finished 23-0.

“Our players competed for each other all year. They were a very dedicated group of student-athletes. They pushed each other in practice every day,” Eden coach Mark Feldman said. ”I would be lying if I told you that as a group we are not disappointed in a second-place finish. I can say all the cliches about being happy we got to the championship, but the fact is we wanted to win and came up a bit short.

“Hopefully, in a few months we look back and realize what an accomplishment it was to be one of two teams left standing. We maxed out our schedule and played every game we could possibly play. That is pretty cool.”

Faith Christian starter Reid Miller pitched a four-hitter with one walk and eight strikeouts against Eden.

Miller improved to 8-0 and lowered his 0.39 ERA. He threw 97 pitches in a complete-game performance and allowed only two earned runs all season.

“This kid was the best arm we’ve seen all year,” Feldman said. “He was fantastic.”

Miller struck out three of the final four batters he faced.

“I knew if we scored a couple of runs, I really liked where we would be with (Miller) throwing,” FC coach Nick Koffel said. “He was just really, really impressive.”

Eden Christian was one of the leading hitting clubs in the WPIAL this season, averaging 9.2 runs. The Warriors had a .327 team batting average and a 239-96 run differential.

Sophomore 1B/3B Brady Hull led the team in multiple offensive categories including hitting (.493), slugging (.863), runs (39), hits (36), RBIs (41) and doubles (12).

“Brady Hull is a Division 1 player. His bat is elite,” Feldman said. “What he doesn’t get enough credit for is his plate discipline. He never chases or tries to do too much. He is a very good baseball player.”

Hull ranked second on the squad in OBP (.576), home runs (five) and stolen bases (21).

“At the start of the year, I looked at our team and thought we had guys who worked hard all offseason and wanted to play, but I didn’t know if we have enough holes for all of them to play. But once the guys started to really buy into what the coaching staff had to offer, I thought we were going to be really good. And that showed after our first game of the year.

“The guys grew into their roles and knew what they had to do to make us good and help the people around them. We went from a team not winning one playoff game to this year being one win away from a WPIAL or PIAA championship. But that happened because everyone knew their role and did it the best they possibly could, and that really helped us be successful.”

Sophomore shortstop Brett Feldman, the coach’s son, and senior 3B Caleb Emswiler also were leading hitters on the team with .478 and .425 batting averages.

Feldman had a team-best .604 OBP to go along with a .638 slugging percentage. He had 33 hits including seven doubles, scored 31 runs, led the team in stolen bases (25) and walks (19) and struck out just twice in 91 plate appearances.

“I thought it was a great season,” Feldman said. “We performed very well. I wish we won the WPIAL and state championships. We had very high expectations of ourselves — to win the section, the WPIAL and the state.

“I haven’t started setting expectations for next season yet. I’m still reflecting on how great this season was.”

Defensively, Feldman accounted for 47 assists and committed one error.

“Brett was our engine all year. He was our heartbeat. His glove is very good,” his dad said. “He has started every game at shortstop since his freshman year. He worked very hard this year to become a threat at the plate.”

Emswiler socked a team-high six home runs and finished second-best in slugging percentage (.822) to go along with his .512 OBP. Emswiler had 31 hits including nine doubles, drove in 40 runs and stole 10 bases.

Hull, a right-handed hurler, took time to commend Coach Feldman, Eden’s first-year field boss.

“As a team we think of each other as family, and we are all brothers,” Hull said. “All coaches want to have and want to build a community and a family where everyone likes everyone. It happened (at Eden) because of coach Feldman. He built a family and a love for the game and a love for playing alongside each other. We always tried to help each other the best we could. But that’s because we wanted to see the best for each other and wanted to see the people around us succeed.

“The community and family built by coach Feldman will never be forgotten by Eden baseball. This year was so special not only because of the winning but also because we loved coming to practice and seeing everyone. Most of us have said we have never enjoyed playing on a team as much as we have this one. It’s a great group of young men run by a great group of coaches. We are brothers in Christ, and that’s been put on us since Day 1. So, props to coach Feldman for making us become a family.”

Other offensive threats for the Warriors this spring included senior 2B Charlie Wolf (.359), sophomore C Josh Tilden, who hit .317 with 21 RBIs, sophomore P Noah Emswiler (.297), who scored 30 times, drove in 19 runs, clouted one home run and had a .464 OBP, junior OF Jacob Janicki (.281 BA, .468 OBP) and senior OF Aidyn Helsley (.250).

Eden accounted for 105 stolen bases in 114 attempts as Noah Emswiler and Wolf were 8 for 8. Janicki (6), senior OF Jake DeFazio (5) and Helsley (5) were not thrown out in 16 attempts between them.

On defense, the Warriors committed 33 errors in 26 games.

Eden’s pitching corps was composed of left-handed senior Enzo Natale (7-1), the Emswiler brothers, who were a combined 7-1, Janicki, Hull and Feldman, who logged one save. Lefty Noah Emswiler was the leading closer with four saves in four chances.

“Caleb will focus on pitching only in college,” Coach Feldman said. “He has a very bright future on the mound.

“We lose four starting seniors, including our top two pitchers (for next season). It will be a very competitive offseason.”

There were six seniors on the club in 2024: Caleb Emswiler, Wolf, Helsley, Natale, C/OF Carter Cropper and DeFazio. Emswiler, Natale and Cropper served as co-captains.

“Despite two big championship losses, I am beyond impressed with how well our season turned out,” Cropper said. “We had some big players get injured, however, that did not stop us. We kept grinding, battling and fighting to the very end, showing how a true baseball team and family can form through the highs and lows of the game.”

Some of the injuries the Warriors battled through were a torn hamstring, concussion issues, a UCL tear/strain and a broken hand.

“Our expectations going into the season were set high,” Cropper said. “We came in this year to win our section, a WPIAL championship and a state championship. Coach Feldman stated in one of our preseason meetings that we were not going to run from these but were going to embrace and attack them.

“This year was fun for us. We had our moments, but in the end I’m very grateful to be a part of this family.”

Caleb Emswiler (Gardner Webb), Natale (St. John Fisher) and Helsley (Chatham) plan to continue their careers in college.


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