Eden Christian falls to undefeated Faith Christian in PIAA Class A final

Friday, June 14, 2024 | 2:03 PM

STATE COLLEGE — One imperfect inning dashed Eden Christian’s thoughts of playing the spoiler.

Instead, Faith Christian scored four runs in the fifth inning and completed a perfect season with a 4-1 victory over Eden Christian in the PIAA Class A final Friday at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

The District 1 champions finished 23-0.

Eden Christian grabbed a lead with a first-inning run and was hoping to win its first state title. But that was the only run the Warriors mustered against Faith Christian starter Reid Miller, who pitched a four-hitter with one walk and eight strikeouts.

“What were they, 22-0, coming in?” Eden Christian coach Mark Feldman said. “Probably haven’t been challenged much. I hope we made them sweat a little bit.”

This was the second runner-up finish this season for Eden Christian (19-6), which also lost in the WPIAL finals. Feldman said the team was limited by injuries yet found a way to win three PIAA playoff games and reach the state finals for the second time in four years.

“They’ve competed for each other all year round,” said Feldman, a first-year coach. “When we lost in the WPIAL championship game, we could’ve packed it in. We could’ve been done. The seniors graduating. Kids going to college. Graduation parties. We could’ve felt sorry for ourselves — and we’re a banged-up club — but they decided to put their chinstraps on and keep playing.”

Eden Christian also was the state runner-up in 2021.

This time, Eden was three innings away from winning gold medals, bolstered by a strong start by sophomore Brady Hull, who held Faith Christian to one hit and two walks over the first four innings. The right-hander pitched only 11 1/3 innings in the regular season but emerged as a stalwart in the playoffs.

“We used him sporadically,” Feldman said. “He’s a good third baseman, he’s a good first baseman and, boy, did he shove today.”

Hull tired, however, and Eden needed three pitchers to complete fifth. Faith Christian sent nine batters to the plate and collected three hits and two walks off Hull and left-handed relievers Noah Emswiler and Enzo Natale.

Hull allowed a one-out walk and had a 2-0 count against the next batter when Emswiler relieved him. Emswiler loaded the bases with a walk and a single before balking in the tying run.

Faith Christian’s Jagger Verbit followed with a two-run single for a 3-1 lead. The four batters who faced Emswiler reached base. He was relieved by senior Natale, who gave up a two-out RBI single to Brandon Labs, extending Faith Christian’s lead to 4-1.

“We were prepping for a left-hander all week, so I had a very good feeling that once a left-hander came in, the tides were going to turn at little bit,” Faith Christian coach Nick Koffel said. “As soon as we saw that lefty, we were ready.”

Miller, who improved to 8-0 and lowered his 0.39 ERA, had allowed only two earned runs all season. The run allowed Friday was unearned. He finished the complete game in 97 pitches.

“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 him throwing,” Koffel said. “He was just really, really impressive.”

Emswiler singled and scored Eden Christian’s lone run on a first-inning error. Sophomore Brett Feldman also had a hit in the inning, and Emswiler scored on a ball hit by Hull.

“We have a kid with a partially torn hamstring, a kid with a UCL, a kid with a broken hand, a kid with a concussion — and (those who were available) played for each other,” Mark Feldman said. “Those aren’t excuses. What I mean is the heart, the grit, the desire was there. It was great to be a part of.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.


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