Penn-Trafford baseball team enjoying PIAA playoff ride

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Tuesday, June 4, 2024 | 3:57 PM


The Road Warriors are ready for their next excursion.

But is their bus?

When Penn-Trafford was preparing to leave Myrtle Beach at the beginning of what has been a historic baseball season, the team bus broke down and the Warriors were left standing by for a ride.

What was another day at the beach?

“We had to wait for another bus to come from Harrison City to Myrtle Beach to pick us up,” senior catcher Ian Temple said. “It was a long wait.”

Fast forward to Monday when they were getting ready to leave their school campus for their PIAA playoff opener, and their bus sputtered again.

“We had to get another one,” Temple said. “We didn’t even get out of the school parking lot.”

Penn-Trafford (21-3), fresh off its first WPIAL championship, will hit the road again Thursday to play Hollidaysburg (15-5) in the PIAA 5A quarterfinals at Sargents Field at Point Stadium in Johnstown.

First pitch is 4 p.m.

To the Warriors, a little waiting is fine if it means more baseball lies ahead. It’s not about the bus, it’s about who is on it.

“When we played at North Allegheny (late in the regular season), we had like a 45-minute rain delay,” Temple said. “We got on the bus, and we shook it back and forth. It was really moving.”

Said senior first baseman Chuck Fontana: “We like being on the bus. We had such a fun time (after the WPIAL championship win in Washington). That bus ride … Music was blasting. We took in the moment. It took a couple of days to come back to earth, to be honest.”

The Warriors, who clipped Bethel Park, 4-3, to take the WPIAL title, carried the momentum into the state first round. There, they edged past Lower Dauphin, 3-2, at Plum — their seventh one-run game of the year.

Penn-Trafford never has been to the state semifinals, so more history could await it.

“We’re always ready for what comes at us,” Temple said. “We believe in each other, carry the rope for one another.”

Had Franklin Regional beaten Hollidaysburg in the first round, it could have been a fourth meeting between Penn-Trafford and the Panthers.

“We’re not real fond of them, and they aren’t real fond of us,” Fontana said. “It doesn’t matter who we play.”

It looks like senior pitcher Brandon Roher will get the start Thursday. Sophomore Zach Feldman started Monday’s win.

While the pitching staff has not been overpowering, it has been effective.

More offense, the coach said, can take some pressure off of them. Remember that 10-3 win over Franklin Regional in the WPIAL semis?

“We don’t really have a No. 1, per se,” coach Lou Cortazzo said. “We can come back with Roher, and we still have Dom Delio and Ben Grabowski in the pen.

“We have to get better with our bats. We knew (Lower Dauphin) was going to be a dog fight.”

Junior Hunter Brown has emerged as a top closer in the postseason for the Warriors. He has seven saves, including three in the playoffs.

A solid defense, which overcame a couple of errors against Lower Dauphin to play sound late and preserve the lead, remains one of the Warriors’ top attributes.

“You look at what we lost (last year) in (Dylan) Grabowski and (Nolan) Marasti,” Fontana said. “Our pitching has been there for us all year. Our defense was a little iffy (Monday), but we will be alright.

“We’re taking it one game at a time. Three more to go.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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