Where is Eden Christian? Baseball team puts school on map with PIAA playoff run

Sunday, June 13, 2021 | 3:37 PM

In his 15 years as a teacher, administrator and now baseball coach at the school, Steve Good is often asked: Where is Eden Christian?

“The best way I explain it is, you always hear on traffic reports about the 279 and 79 split,” he said. “We are right in the middle of the split.”

This spring, Good’s baseball team is putting the small, private high school in Ohio Township on the map.

Eden Christian (19-5) has reached the PIAA playoffs for the first time, and the Warriors are drawing attention statewide for a resilient run that’s already eliminated two district champions. They’re the only WPIAL team left in the Class A bracket, and next up is a state semifinal against Southern Fulton, the District 5 champion.

The game is 5 p.m. Monday at First Commonwealth Bank Field in Homer City.

“This is exciting,” said Good, the school’s dean of students.

Eden Christian entered states as the third-place team from the WPIAL, having to win a consolation game just to qualify, but the Warriors aren’t a Cinderella story. Theirs is a story about a really good team facing disappointment and capitalizing on a second chance. The Warriors were the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs before Union routed them 12-1 in the district semifinals.

Union eventually won the WPIAL title.

“They could have packed it in after the Union game because they were disappointed in themselves,” Good said. “Union played a great game, but we for some reason did not have it that day. We were not ready.”

The Warriors didn’t talk about the painful loss that day or the next, Good said, as the coaches decided instead to give the players time to rest and recharge.

“We came back two days later and (the message) was, ‘Hey, we know we didn’t reach this (WPIAL) goal, but this (PIAA) goal is still ahead of us.

“They’ve responded.”

Eden Christian, which opened in 1983, has approximately 50 students per grade at the high school level. The school joined the WPIAL in 2010 and fielded its first varsity baseball team in 2013.

Less than a decade later, this year’s roster has at least four seniors who’ll play baseball in college.

Shortstop Luke Vitrone is committed to Grove City, third baseman David Kelly to Westminster and designated hitter Andrew Prouty to Muskingum, a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference.

Pitcher Logan McNelis is headed to IMG Academy in Florida for a year before college.

The Warriors average 10 runs per game and have five players batting better than .390. Vitrone is hitting .469 with 29 RBIs and 32 runs in 24 games. Kelly has a .435 average with 31 RBIs and 28 runs, and Prouty has 25 runs, 23 RBIs and a .424 average.

“We didn’t know it was going to be our year, but we knew there was a shot to be our year,” Good said. “We had seven seniors coming back, a group of five juniors, and they’ve worked hard.”

Back when Eden first fielded a baseball program, Good shared coaching duties with Dave Kirilloff, whose son Alex starred at Plum and later was a first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins. The two split coaching duties for a few years before Good took over in 2015.

“He called and said, ‘Are you interested in starting a baseball team? The Catholic schools have teams, but you’d be the only Christian school around with a baseball team,’” Good said.

That upstart program is now one win away from the state finals.

The baseball team’s current winning streak started with a 9-2 win over Jefferson-Morgan in the WPIAL consolation game June 1. Eden then defeated DuBois Central Catholic, 8-7, in the PIAA first round June 7 despite trailing 4-0 and 7-4. A pair of fifth-inning home runs by Prouty and catcher Malachi Manges forced a 7-7 tie, and Eden scored the winning run in the seventh when Roberto Farfan tripled and scored.

“The middle of our order is just so good … but in the playoffs, we’ve been getting great production from six, seven, eight,” Good said of Farfan, Eli Szenyeri and Manges. “Those three have been really good.”

The team’s quarterfinal win last Thursday over Kennedy Catholic was far less dramatic. Eden took an 8-0 lead in the first inning and won 12-5. Manges drove in four runs and Kelly scored three times.

Jacob Fisher pitched the first four innings and Jared Bees handled the final three.

Combined, Eden has used five different pitchers in the postseason with four making starts.

Fisher, a senior, has a 1.05 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 40 innings. Bees, a junior, has 35 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings and a 2.10 ERA. McNelis has 77 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings with a 1.12 ERA.

“We basically have a Top 5,” Good said, “and all five of them have done something very significant for us in the playoffs.”

The baseball team’s success adds to an already memorable year for Eden Christian athletics. The Warriors qualified for the WPIAL playoffs in boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, and girls volleyball this school year.

Good said there’s a sense of pride knowing that success introduces others to the school.

“When people see ‘Eden Christian Academy,’ we want them to think, they’re competitive, they get after it,” Good said, “but they do it the right way.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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