With surprise starter stifling Avella, Eden Christian rolls into PIAA Class A semifinals

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Thursday, June 6, 2024 | 9:41 PM


When Eden Christian Academy coach Mark Feldman named his starting pitcher for the PIAA Class A baseball quarterfinals, he threw a curve at Avella.

Then Warriors sophomore Brady Hull spent most of the afternoon baffling Eagles hitter with his nasty curve.

Hull struck out 11 Avella batters, seven caught looking at strike three, plus he had three hits and two RBIs as Eden Christian ended the dream season of Avella, 11-4, on Thursday at Ross Memorial Park at the Washington & Jefferson Sports Complex in Washington.

“I think that their pitching caught us off guard,” Avella coach Jason Fogg said. “We were preparing for another pitcher. We were rattled early, and we just made an adjustment.”

Feldman decided to go with Hull, despite the fact he only pitched 11 innings all season.

“Brady is a pitbull,” Feldman said. “His stuff was filthy. He only pitched 11 innings going into this game and he was great.”

The game began in strange fashion.

Noah Emswiler led the game off with a single to center field. Then with Avella starting pitcher Bryce Wright in the stretch position, Emswiler took off and forced Wright to balk in his throw to second base.

Emswiler scored after two more balks by Wright to take a lead the Warriors never gave up.

“It happens,” Feldman said of the triple balk. “In big games, different things happen. We talk a lot about slowing the pulse down. I think our kids did a really nice job at that.”

The Warriors added another run in the second inning when senior Aidyn Helsley singled home senior Charlie Wolf, who led off the inning with a walk.

Eden Christian scored four runs in the third inning to bust the game open.

Sophomore Brett Feldman, the son of the head coach, led off with a base hit. Following walks to Caleb Emswiler and Wolf, junior Jacob Janicki drove home two with a single. Then Helsley singled to score two more.

Helsley led the Warriors’ 13-hit attack with four hits, a run scored and three RBIs from the No. 7 spot in the Eden Christian batting order.

“Aidyn has been in the starting lineup all year for us, Feldman said. “He’s worked really hard and it showed.”

The sophomore Wright pitched five innings for Avella, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits with five walks and five strikeouts.

“I think he battled,” Fogg said. “He wasn’t feeling great coming into the game because of the 71 pitches he threw on Monday. To his credit, he battled it out. I appreciate his efforts.”

At the plate, Hull was 3 for 5 with an RBI double in the fourth inning, a triple on which he scored on a throwing error on the play in the sixth and a single to drive home two more runs in the seventh.

“At the start of the game, I couldn’t figure it out,” Hull said of going 0 for 2 early in the game. “Then I just forgot about them and went to bat thinking, ‘Be on time. Be on time and hunt the fastball.’ I was able to stay within my approach in those later at-bats.”

Hull was dominant on the mound early on. Following a leadoff single by Wright in the first inning, he struck out six batters in a row and seven hitters the first time through the Avella lineup.

In five innings, Hull allowed one earned run on two hits with three walks and 11 Ks for the win.

“The curveball was working well, and if I had to throw the fastball, I was just going to trust my defense with it,” Hull said. “I came into the game with confidence, and I knew my defense would be behind me the whole time, so I was just going to fill up the (strike) zone.”

Besides Helsley with four hits and Hull with three, Noah Emswiler, Feldman and Janicki added two hits each.

Eden Christian improves to 18-6 and will play District 10 champion Saegertown on Monday in a PIAA Class A semifinal.

The Warriors last reached the state semifinals three years ago when they defeated Southern Fulton, 8-3.

Cole Jaworowski and Isaiah Bradick tripled to lead the Eagles offense.

Avella sees its historic postseason end with a record of 13-7.

The Eagles ended a 15-year WPIAL playoff victory drought this postseason and participated in the PIAA playoffs for the first time in school history, going 1-1.

“The best part I can say is this has touched kids in the elementary school,” Fogg said. “We had a bunch of cards made for the guys from the kids wishing us luck. That’s how you get things rolling. Hopefully that lights a fire under them, knowing that if you work hard, we’ll continue to have similar runs like this. It was great, and I’m glad they were able to take me on a ride.”

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