Penn-Trafford comes up short; future still bright

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Friday, June 7, 2024 | 6:42 PM


All of the Penn-Trafford baseball team’s goals were met this season except for one: advancing further in the PIAA playoffs and, maybe, playing for a PIAA title.

But Penn-Trafford’s season ended in the state quarterfinals — the same place it ended in 2023 — with a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Hollidaysburg on Thursday. The Warriors lost to Shaler, 4-1, in the 2023 quarterfinals.

After meeting with the players in left field, coach Lou Cortazzo walked away and allowed the players to reflect on the season that featured the school’s first WPIAL Class 5A title.

As the players started walking back to the dugout, they were greeted with a hug from Cortazzo.

And while it was a sad day for the seniors, the future looks bright for the numerous underclassmen returning.

“Nothing can take away what happened last week,” Penn-Trafford athletic director Kerry Hetrick said. “We’ll be OK next year. We return all of our pitchers except for Brandon Roher.”

The Warriors finished the season 21-4. They shared the section title with Franklin Regional, Plum and Fox Chapel, won the WPIAL title and won a game in the PIAA playoffs, defeating Lower Dauphin, 3-2.

There was a questionable call — actually two — in the seventh inning that went against the Warriors on Thursday. Hollidaysburg’s Jake Hileman hit a line drive down the left-field line that eventually was ruled fair after the home plate and third base umpires failed to make a call initially. Hileman wound up with a double.

The video of the play was inconclusive on whether it was fair or foul. Then Cortazzo claimed the next batter, who hit a sacrifice fly, was a foot out of the batter’s box. It led to the winning sacrifice fly by Cayden Gibbons.

“I’m not going to blame the loss on the umpires. We put that on ourselves,” Cortazzo said. “We’re in a state championship game, and to blow two calls like that in an inning, it hurts.

“Again, we had opportunities to put the ball in play, and we didn’t. Like I told them: Every good thing comes to an end, and for us it came to an end.”

Penn-Trafford’s main problem against Hollidaysburg was hitting too many fly ball outs (11) and not getting hits in bunches.

“We sprayed too many hits and didn’t group them together,” Cortazzo said. “If we group them together, it’s a different game.

“We did something in Penn-Trafford history that we had never done before by winning a WPIAL championship. Would we have loved a PIAA title? Absolutely. We just fell a little bit short.”

Cortazzo, who finished his second year as coach, said goodbye to seniors Carmen Metcalfe, Tyler Freas, Jason Sabol, Brody Hoffman, Ian Temple, Chuck Fontana, Bret Worthington, Carl Heller, Eric Birosack, David Newsom, Travis Kovarik, Cole Pokrant, Marco Rudek and Roher.

And while there are holes to fill, Cortazzo will build around juniors Brayden Stone and Ethan Septak and sophomore Logan Matrisch and numerous pitchers.

Stone, who played second base, will move back to his regular position of shortstop. Septak was the team’s designated hitter, and Matrisch played right.

The pitching staff will include juniors Hunter Brown, Dom Delio, Robbie Andrews and Jon Lovre, sophomore Zach Feldman and freshman Ben Grabowski.

Penn-Trafford is set to be heard from in 2025.

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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