By Pete Chiodo
Many expect the Saegertown baseball team to win this year’s District 10 Class AA title. And coming off of two consecutive championships, and with many of the players from those two teams still in uniform; it’s easy to see why.
However, a championship isn’t won by expectations. And even though the Panthers are the favorites, head coach Tim Crum knows that if his squad wants it, they’re going to have to earn it.
“You’ve got to show up and play the game,” said Crum. “We’re not taking anybody lightly. You’ve got to take it one game at a time. If you look down the road, it’s going to cost you. If you don’t finish that game you’re playing, there is no tomorrow.”
That’s the mindset Crum was instilling in his players in the lead-up to today’s quarterfinal meeting with Franklin, which is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. at Ainsworth Field in Erie.
Franklin enters the game with a record of 11-5-1 overall and 6-2 in Region 4, where the Knights finished as C-champions with Titusville.
Titusville got the better seed out of Region 4 after sweeping Franklin in the season series. The Knights swept the rest of its region opponents — Eisenhower, Iroquois and Youngsville.
Franklin also had losses to Region 5 champ Mercyhurst Prep (9-2), Region 5 runner-up Northwestern (12-5) and Region 6 Class AAA runner-up Slippery Rock (5-4 in the regular season finale).
That tie on the Knights’ record came from a rain-shortened 3-3 result against North East.
“It’s not going to matter what the team’s record is,” said Crum. “They were good enough to make the playoffs. These teams are going to bring their best, throw their best and play their best. Anything less won’t do.”
Franklin has a couple tough bats in seniors Nick Emerson and Chris Kahle and junior Nate Cardy. Emerson and Cardy are also the Knights’ top arms.
Crum will send senior ace Luke Carter to the mound to deal with Franklin’s batters.
And against Franklin’s pitchers, Crum believes his lineup will be up to the task.
“We’ve been hitting well 1 through 9,” said Crum. “Offensively the stats are there. As a team we batted over .420 during the regular season. That’s pretty productive.”
It’s not just the top of the order doing the damage either, said Crum. Guys like Drew Durasa, Matt Thompson, Kyle Wise and Scott Sada have helped out the offense plenty this season.
“A lot of teams, you get through their first four or five hitters and that’s about all they’ve got,” he said. “The bottom half of our order has done their fair share of carrying the load for us this season.”
Their contributions will be needed once again for the Panthers to make another run at a title.
“I hope that we can be productive on both sides of ball; pitch efficiently and bring the bats,” he said. “The new season starts with this game (today). Hopefully we survive.”