Fox Chapel baseball breaks through with playoff win over Mars

Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | 9:23 PM

The Fox Chapel baseball team has been close in recent years, and after six seasons a breakthrough in the WPIAL postseason happened Wednesday night.

And they needed all facets to do so, fittingly enough against a Mars team that has been a thorn in the Foxes’ sides in recent years.

The Foxes came ready to hit, got a lead early, received a solid start from ace pitcher Jeremy Haigh and played strong defense behind him. It was enough to get No. 8 Foxes past Mars, 6-4, in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs at Plum.

“This feels good,” said Fox Chapel coach Jim Hastings.“We played (Mars) in section for years and actually lost to them in 2019 in the first round of the playoffs. It was nice to get a win and move on.”

The Foxes (13-8) advanced to play top-seeded Shaler in next week’s quarterfinals.

Mars finished 9-10.

Fox Chapel scored three runs in the first, all coming with two outs. Haigh doubled, and Dom Cassol followed with an RBI double. Then, Benny Demotte worked a nine-pitch walk, and Jack Resek followed with a line shot into the gap that scored both. Resek was credited with a two-run double but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.

“That was huge for us to get up top three early because we knew, with Jeremy going, if we could get three to five runs, we were going to be pretty solid,” Hastings said.

The Foxes added another in the second when Logan Hoffman hit a one-out triple and was brought home by a Joey Gellar sacrifice fly to left field.

Mars punched back with a pair of runs in the third. Chase Winstead led off with a triple, Benji Astbury followed with a single and Jake Johnson had an RBI groundout. Astbury later scored on a wild pitch.

Following the single by Astbury, Haigh retired the next 10 in a row until an error on a Luke Goodworth grounder in the sixth.

The error proved costly as Zach Orosz scored Goodworth on an RBI double to right field, and Charlie Bickel followed with an RBI single, which cut the Fox Chapel lead to 5-4.

The Foxes got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Troy Susnak was hit by a pitch, pinch hitter Franco Pistella sacrificed Susnak to second and Zach Johnston drove him in with a single.

With the tying run at the plate in the seventh, Haigh induced a ground ball to third, which turned into an around-the-horn double play from Susnak to Demotte to Cassol to end the game.

Haigh pitched a complete game and had four strikeouts.

“I thought he settled in well after the second inning,” Hastings said. “The sixth inning we had an error, which hurt, but getting that run in the sixth was huge. We got a little breathing room and got it done from there.”

Fox Chapel played Shaler on March 20 and fell 3-1.

“We know they are one of the top programs in the WPIAL and have some big time players, but we’ll be ready,” Hastings said.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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