Eden Christian sets a course for the season of JM | Jefferson-Morgan
Playing for a life in the playoffs in a third place game isn’t where you’d expect to find a top seed in the WPIAL baseball playoffs.
Still, there was Class A seeded Eden Christian, who played in the consolation game against Jefferson-Morgan on Tuesday. And unfortunately for JM, Eden Christian looked like a seed and nothing like the team that was beaten by Union last week in the semi-finals.
Two Eden Christian pitchers combined three batters and struck out 18 batters as the Warriors beat Jefferson-Morgan 9-2 at Ross Memorial Park.
The victory sends Eden Christian (17-5) to the state playoffs which start next week. Jefferson-Morgan ends his season with a 13-7 record.
“They’re the best Class A team we’ve played,” JM coach John Curtis said of Eden Christian.
Jefferson-Morgan lost to Riverview in the semifinals. Union shut out Riverview 3-0 in the WPIAL title game on Tuesday.
Eden Christian used an interesting pitching strategy as Christian Cropper started off the mound and pitched two scoreless innings, striking out four of seven batters. Cropper only allowed JM’s lead hitter Kyle Clayton a single infield.
Cropper was substituted in the third inning, which you think could help wake up the Rockets’ bats. This is not the case because Logan McNelis was even better. He pitched the last five innings, allowing just two hits and four walks. He retired 14.
“It was our plan,” said Eden Christian coach Steve Good. “We didn’t want to run the risk of being in a situation where we had to get our No. 1 player out in the sixth or seventh inning of a close game because of the pitch limit. So we opened with Cropper. That way, Logan would have no way to throw 105 pitches in five innings. “
“We couldn’t get the ball into play,” Curtis said. “(McNelis) hit the side in almost every innings. He’s the best boy we’ve faced all year.
A statistical oddity was that Eden Christian did not register an assist in the game. JM’s 21 strikeouts occurred either by strikeout or by flying ball.
The Rockets scored their runs in the fourth inning against McNelis. With Eden Christian leading 4-0, JM’s Ayden Pratt started the fourth with a walk. Losing pitcher Bryce Bedilion followed with a crisp line that sizzled past the second baseman and into the gap into right center field. He rolled to the fence, scoring Pratt as Bedilion hit third with a triple.
McNelis then tried to get Bedilion out of third base, but his pitch was wild. Bedilion raced home with the run that reduced Eden Christian’s lead to 4-2.
The Rockets, however, couldn’t keep the momentum going and in the bottom of the fifth, Eden Christian opened the game scoring three runs on three hits and two JM errors. The Rockets made five unusual mistakes.
“We didn’t make the plays we should have made,” said Curtis. “We had ninth graders playing in the corners and a few times we picked a guy on first base and we didn’t throw on second to get the out. We fell asleep on the ground several times. We just made a few mistakes.
Aside from Clayton’s first single and Bedilion’s triple, JM’s only other hit was a row single from Easton Hanko in the sixth.
Eden Christian’s Brian Feldman was 2-for-3 and produced four runs. He scored two points in singles in the third and sixth innings. Eli Szenyeri had an RBI on the ground in the second and a double scoring in the fifth.
The Warriors finished with nine hits against Bedilion, who played 5 1/3 innings, and Clayton. Bedilion, who has started so well all season, only lost for the second time.
“We were an average team, a little average, and we’ve come a long way,” Curtis said. “We beat Greensburg Central Catholic and Leechburg and Rochester. We beat good teams. We did what we needed to do when we needed it.
“But in that game, we didn’t do the things we were doing, things like kick guys out at second base, turn a double play. Against Rochester, we shot three double plays. Sure, you have to score more than two points, but the little things we were doing before this one are the ones that win games. “