Evan Holewinski pitches 3-hitter, Bethel Park wins back-to-back PIAA titles

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Friday, June 17, 2022 | 7:50 PM


UNIVERSITY PARK — Rarely does a WPIAL baseball team have a chance to win consecutive state titles, so Bethel Park tried to remember and repeat everything that worked a year ago.

“We tried to do everything the same,” coach Pat Zehdner said. “We left at the same time. We stopped at the same place. We got here about the same time. The same people went to the bathroom. We tried to keep as much the same as possible.”

The result was exactly the same, too.

Junior righty Evan Holewinski pitched a dominant three-hitter and teammate Cody Geddes had another busy day at the plate in one of his favorite stadiums as Bethel Park defeated Selinsgrove, 5-0, in the PIAA Class 5A championship Friday at Medlar Field.

This was the third PIAA title overall for the Black Hawks (21-3), who became only the fourth WPIAL baseball team to win back-to-back state titles.

“Doing it again with the same guys and all being out here again, it just feels great,” Holewinski said. “It’s dreams to reality, to be honest.”

A year ago, then-senior Eric Chalus, now a Kent State freshman, pitched Bethel Park to the state title. This time it was Holewinski, another Kent State recruit, who was dominant on the Penn State pitcher’s mound.

Holewinski allowed only three hits — all singles — walked none, struck out five and needed only 76 pitches to finish off another efficient outing. He threw nine pitches or fewer in an inning three times.

He surrendered a single to the leadoff hitter before retiring 16 of the next 17 batters in order. Only a hit batter interrupted his string of putouts.

“The guys knew he was throwing strikes, so they’re apt to swing at his pitches,” Zehdner said. “They can’t sit back and wait. That’s advantage Evan.”

Bethel Park became the fourth WPIAL team to win consecutive state baseball titles joining Moon (2001-02) and Riverside (2005-06 and 2011-12), which accomplished the feat twice.

The Black Hawks have now reached the state finals six times overall. Their first state title came in 1988, a year after losing in the finals in ‘87.

A year ago, the Black Hawks defeated Red Land, 4-2, in the championship game.

“It feels a little bit different because Bethel had never done it back to back and we’re the first team to do it,” Geddes said. “It means a lot because I know it’s definitely going to leave a legacy and a mark on the community and the program.”

Holewinski and Selinsgrove starter Ryan Reich were locked in a scoreless duel until Geddes homered in the fourth inning for a 1-0 lead. The Black Hawks added three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh against Reich, who’d entered with an 8-1 record.

Reich struck out nine but allowed five runs on seven hits and one walk. He was replaced with two outs in the seventh after reaching the PIAA’s 105-pitch limit.

“It had that feeling of a game where the first team that scores is really going to get a lot of momentum,” Zehdner said. “Cody Geddes has been one of the most clutch players I’ve seen his whole career. He was the player of the game last year in the state championship and here he comes again.”

Geddes, a senior third baseman, went 3 for 4 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored. A year ago, Geddes keyed Bethel Park’s win with a two-run triple that got him teased because the ball only reached the warning track. This time, his fourth-inning blast cleared the left-field wall with ease.

After taking a fastball for strike two, Geddes predicted that Reich’s next pitch would be something off-speed and inside. He guessed right.

“My eyes were humongous,” Geddes said of when he saw the curveball coming.

The Black Hawks added three runs in the sixth on three hits, a walk and one Selisgrove error — giving Holewinski more room to work. David Kessler and Geddes reached base on one-out singles and Ray Altmeyer hit a one-hopper to shortstop that drew an error and scored Kessler.

Ben Hudson followed with a two-run single to lead 4-0.

In the seventh, Geddes drove in Kessler with an RBI single to left to make it 5-0. When the left fielder misplayed Geddes’ single, he ambitiously tried to circle the bases but was tagged out at the plate.

That was more than enough for Holewinski, who allowed one single apiece in the sixth and seventh innings but finished the game off with a strikeout.

Said Geddes: “When we give him a 1-0 lead or any type of lead, we know he’s just going to go out and finish the game himself.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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