Mount Union gets past of No. 1 Tyrone, clinches state berth
TYRONE — The rain stayed away from the Harry K. Sickler Sports Complex Thursday afternoon for the the District 6 Class 3A semifinal between Tyrone and Mount Union, and the visiting fourth-seeded Trojans made the best of their opportunity.
Tyrone starting pitcher Kevin Lehner got rocked by the Trojan bats in the third inning for five runs — one earned — including a two-run RBI double by Dylan Gearhart to help the Trojans get a two-run lead and go on to win the game, 8-2.
Andrew Pearson and Blaine Hoover scored runs for the Golden Eagles. Gearhart finished the game with two RBIs on 3-for-4 hitting to lead the Trojan attack.
“Everybody knows we’re not the typical four seed,” Gearhart said. “It’s Mount Union baseball — if we play as one, we can do anything.”
Gearhart said that despite giving up the early run, winning pitcher Seth Smith did the things the Trojans needed to keep them in the ball game.
“We got down, but he limited the damage. Seth did what we needed to do and we just hit up and down the line, manufactured runs and just didn’t let up.”
Mount Union (20-3), which qualified for the PIAA tournament with the victory, is headed to Tuesday’s District 6 Class 3A championship game, which is scheduled to be played at Altoona’s PNG Field at a time to be determined later against the winner of today’s game between Philipsburg-Osceola and Forest Hills (which was postponed Thursday).
“This is the goal every year in our program is to get to the district finals because if you get to the district finals, you’re in the state playoffs,” Trojans coach Tim Hicks said. “And we’ve been so close. Every year for the last five years we’ve been in the quarterfinals, we’ve been in the semifinals, we just hadn’t been able to get over that hump.
Hicks praised his team for excellent play and determination despite coming in as a middle seed.
“These guys, they deserve it. We’ve played great baseball all year, and I know we came in as a four seed, had to play on the road. But these guys have played such great baseball all year. Even when things aren’t going well, they grit it out and they get back in the game and the defense behind them makes plays.”
Hicks said while the Trojans were stagnant at the plate early, things turned around after they had some time to go through the lineup.
“We could put the ball in play, we just couldn’t find any holes,” Hicks said. “But once we got some base runners on the second time around (the lineup), we started hitting the ball. Dylan had the huge double into right-center to give us the lead, and once that happened, the floodgates just opened.”
Tyrone coach Kevin Soellner likely would have agreed with that assessment.
“Yeah they slapped the ball around pretty good,” Soellner said. “We knew they would hit, but I really thought we would hold them down to about four or five runs, but it wouldn’t have mattered today because we didn’t hit. I thought we’d hit the ball.”
Lehner managed to get through until the third for Tyrone and got two outs after walking the leadoff batter to start the side, but things started coming apart after Quinnten Fultz scored on a Grayson McClain RBI groundout, and Gearhart’s double scored Matt Harshbarger to get to put the Trojans ahead for good.
Aiden Coleman replaced Lehner and went for 2 2/3 innings and he had just as hard a time with three more runs allowed and seven hits.
Rodney Shultz, fresh off a win Monday night in the quarterfinals, came on in the sixth to close out the side with a strikeout and then pitched the full seventh with no further offense for the Trojans.
For Tyrone (18-4), the season that started with a 10-game win streak is now over. After an up-and down 2018 season with a younger team, improvement was expected, but Soellner said he believed his team could be this good.
“I knew we could do this. Last year we lost a bunch that I thought we should have had. We were over the hump. I probably would have said 14 or 15 (wins), to be honest. But 18?”
But the breaks didn’t go Tyrone’s way this year.
“Obviously, the Gearhart boy is a stud. It is what it is. But they got a few more breaks that way. Balls, seeing-eye singles, stuff like that,” he said.
Mount Union 8, Tyrone 2
Mount Union 005 201 0–8-12-1
Tyrone100 010 0–2-7-2
WP: Smith. LP: Lehner. SO: Smith 1 (M); Lehner 1, Shultz 2 (T). BB: Smith 2 (M); Lehner 1, Coleman 2 (T). 3B: Gearhart (M). 2B: Harshbarger (M); Lehman, Pearson (T). MH: Gearhart 3-4, Posey 2-4, Hand 2-4, Carbaugh 2-4 (M); Lewis 2-4 (T). RBI: McClain, Gearhart 2, Posey, Hand 2, Smith 2 (M); Lehman (T).