Trip to PIAA playoffs a major boost for Freeport baseball program
Tuesday, June 4, 2019 | 5:21 PM
In the hours after Freeport baseball’s 3-2 PIAA Class 3A first-round loss to Franklin on Monday at Slippery Rock University, one in which the Knights rallied with two runs in the bottom of the seventh, the Yellowjackets players and coaches received dozens of calls, texts, emails and Twitter messages of support in the midst of what were feelings of heartbreak over the outcome.
“I talked to some of the guys, and they got messages from people they didn’t expect,” coach Ed Carr said. “I certainly did. An uncle who is a Freeport graduate who lives in Florida messaged me. I got them from everybody expressing how proud they were of the team. They were touching gestures.”
Carr said his team, which finished as the No. 3 team from the WPIAL and concluded the season at 15-7, had nothing for which they needed to hang their heads.
“I told the kids that when the smoke clears, they will realize how much they did for this program moving forward,” Carr said. “I think it’s starting to hit everybody now.”
Franklin had lost only once all year and now takes a 21-game winning streak into a quarterfinal game Thursday against District 6 runner-up Philipsburg-Osceola.
“It was just a great battle between two very good teams,” Carr said.
P-O defeated WPIAL champion Steel Valley, 3-1, in the first round Monday.
A total team effort, Carr said, was on display Monday as it had been all season.
“Playing as a team was a recipe for our success this year,” Carr said. “Including the courtesy runners, we had to have used 13 or 14 guys (Monday). They all did something specific to help us try to win that game.
“One of the guys, I think it was (senior) Josh (Tirdel), said, ‘Coach, we weren’t the most talented team this year. We were just good.’ He was right. All 19 guys came together and became a team. It was contributions from everybody.”
Carr said junior first baseman Matt Mitchell is recovering from getting banged up in a collision with a fence while chasing a foul ball during the third inning of Monday’s game.
“It was tough to lose Matt,” Carr said. “He’s our No. 4 hitter, and he had been so strong for us both offensively and defensively. But the kids didn’t hang their heads about it. They continued to rally behind each other.”
Freeport, which came into the season having to replace six starters lost to graduation, won its final seven games of the regular season, including a 3-2, come-from-behind victory over Deer Lakes in the regular-season finale to clinch the Section 1-3A title.
“We talked about the expectations in the winter and in the preseason,” Carr said. “We didn’t get ahead of ourselves. We focused on what we could control. Once we competed against and defeated some good teams, they developed that, ‘Why not us?’ mentality. They took it one step at a time, and when the smoke cleared, we were in the state playoffs.”
Carr said the quartet of seniors — Tirdel, Evan McCrea, Coulton Stewart and Zane Zeppuhar — played a big part in getting the team to mesh this season.
“They left their stamp on the program,” he said. “They set a standard of what we expect and how we will be successful in the future.”
With eight starters returning for next season, expectations, Carr said, will be high, and the team will not sneak up on anyone.
“Teams in our section knew that we were going to be a team to deal with this year,” Carr said. “But I don’t think people gave us a lot of thought in the WPIAL overall. Now, I think those who make predictions will say we will be pretty good next year. We’ll see a lot of teams who will be gunning for us, for sure.
“When we get to the fall, they’re going to have to understand that the coaches will expect more and will keep pushing and pushing them. Nothing is guaranteed, and they can’t be satisfied.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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