Hopewell baseball’s magical playoff run ends in state semifinals

Monday, June 12, 2023 | 11:01 PM

HOMER CITY – Hopewell’s magical baseball season came to an end Monday in the PIAA Class 4A playoffs, one game shy of a trip to State College for the championship game.

District 6 champion Bellefonte rallied with a five-run fifth inning to spoil Hopewell’s run, 6-5, at First Commonwealth Bank Field.

Bellefonte (19-5) advanced to the championship game at Penn State’s Medlar Field against the winner of Tuesday’s game between District 12 champion Archbishop Wood and District 2 champion Dallas.

The Red Raiders defeated their third consecutive WPIAL team. They beat Latrobe, 10-9, on June 5 and Indiana, 11-5, on June 8.

Bellefonte scored five runs on three hits, two walks and an error. Tristan Heckman had a two-run single to make it 5-4, Braedyn Kormanic drove in the tying run when his hard-hit grounder was mishandled for an error, and Levi Purnell followed with a sacrifice fly for the eventual winning run.

Before the fifth inning, Hopewell freshman pitcher Kingston Krotec had baffled the heavy-hitting bats of Bellefonte. He struck out three and enduced seven easy flyouts.

“He was a different style pitcher,” Bellefonte coach Jon Clark said. “We’ve had trouble before against pitchers like him, and it took us awhile to adjust. Hopewell is a tough team, and its record doesn’t indicate the type of team it has.

“Throw their record out the window. Everybody is good at this point, and they were as billed. We knew it would be a fight, and I loved how our guys responded. We didn’t back down, and we just kept at it.”

Things started well for Hopewell, which had its seven-game winning streak snapped. The Vikings (15-12) got a RBI single from senior Greg Barlion to score senior Ty Eberhardt, who opened the game with a double.

The Vikings tacked on a second run in the second inning, and senior Lucas Arington gave the WPIAL champions a 5-0 lead with a three-run home run in the fourth inning.

“We had it for a little bit,” Hopewell coach Morgan Singletary said. “That’s a great hitting team, and they were able to put a bunch together. It was a battle to the end, and we had the tying run at second base in the seventh inning, but didn’t get a hit. I can’t be more proud of these guys.”

Hopewell turned a bad season into a great season and marched to the WPIAL title and nearly made it to State College.

“I’m proud of how they handled things,” Singletary said. “They could have shut it down. We were going against a really good team in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs. They could have said, ‘This is it. They’re a good team,’ but they didn’t. They won that game and kept on winning.

“No one thought we’d be in this position. The fact that we got here is great. They turned what could have been a really rough season into a really good season. We went as far as the seniors took us.”

Johnson, a Duke commit, had three hits for Bellefonte while Kormanic and Heckman had doubles.

Hopewell got two hits each from Eberhardt and Barlion.

“We just all bonded together as a team,” Hopewell senior Stephen Slate said. “We’re a tight group of guys, and it brought us so far.

“They put balls in play pretty hard, and they got the key hits. I’m proud of how we fought.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.


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