For the first time in school history, Franklin's baseball team will venture into the PIAA playoff semifinals and will face District 6 champion Mount Union in a Class 3A matchup at 4:30 p.m. today at Showers Field in DuBois.
Coach Brian Schmidt's Knights have won a remarkable 22 straight games and improved to 23-1 on the season after Thursday's 6-3 win over Philipsburg-Osceola, but they appear, at least on paper, to be getting a step up in competition with the Trojans.
Coach Timothy Hicks' Trojans, who sport a 23-3 record, won their first 11 games of the season before dropping back-to-back games to Claysburg-Kimmel (9-8, 12 innings) and Bellwood-Antis (5-3). They rebounded to win 12 of their last 13 contests to reach the state semfinals with the only loss in that stretch coming against Southern Huntingdon (1-0).
Dylan Gearhart, a senior, is expected to get the start on the mound for the Trojans today and he's posted an 8-2 record with an ERA of 0.62 in 60.1 innings over 14 appearances this season. He's given up only six earned runs on 46 hits with 81 strikeouts and only seven walks.
Gearhart started on the mound in Mount Union's PIAA opener against Biglerville, a 10-4 victory, and worked six innings to earn the win. He gave up four runs (two earned) on 10 hits with eight strikeouts and one walk. He also pitched all nine innings of the Trojans' 1-0 victory over Philipsburg-Osceola in the D-6 title game, allowing five hits while striking out five and not allowing a walk.
Seth Smith, also a senior, is the Trojans' other top pitcher as he sports a 9-0 record with a 1.39 ERA in 67.1 innings over 11 appearances this year. He's allowed 12 earned runs on 45 hits with 52 strikeouts and 22 walks. He pitched all seven innings of Mount Union's 4-0 win over Hopewell in the PIAA quarterfinals. He gave up four hits while striking out two and walking two.
The Trojans also appear to be fearsome at the plate with a collective batting average of .379 with 221 runs scored on 282 hits, including 45 doubles, three triples and seven home runs.
Mount Union has eight players who have participated in all 26 games that are hitting at least .312 or higher, led by Gearhart, who has a .464 average with 39 hits, 39 RBIs, 21 runs scored, nine doubles and three home runs. Ethan Carbaugh, a junior, is also hitting above .400 for the Trojans with a .430 average, including 34 hits, 23 runs scored, 15 RBIs, three doubles and one triple.
Also dangerous at the plate for the Trojans are senior Quinnten Fultz (.395 average, 30 hits, 16 runs, 14 RBIs, five doubles); Smith (.366 average, 26 hits, 23 RBIs, 10 runs, six doubles); senior Matt Harshbarger (.366 average, 34 hits, 34 runs, 11 RBIs, five doubles); senior Quinton Posey (.363 average, 33 hits, 25 RBIs, 22 runs, six doubles, one triple, one home run); junior Kobe Hand (.312 average, 28 hits, 24 runs, 23 RBIs, six doubles, two home runs) and junior Grayson McClain (.312 average, 25 hits, 32 runs, 15 RBIs, one double, one triple).
The Knights will be sending junior right-hander Ian Haynes to the mound to face the Trojans. He sports a 9-0 record with a 1.61 ERA in 61 innings over 12 appearances. He's given up 14 earned runs on 38 hits with 56 strikeouts and 26 walks. He helped the Knights defeat Freeport by limiting the Yellowjackets to one earned run on seven hits with a season-high nine strikeouts and one walk in 6.2 innings.
Connor Rakow, a senior, could also see time on the mound as he's earned saves in the last two state playoff wins. He worked three innings against the Mountaineers on Thursday, allowing one earned run on two hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
Franklin is hitting .326 as a unit with 200 runs scored on 214 hits, including 47 doubles, five triples and eight home runs.