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Faith Christian captures 1st PIAA baseball title in school history


It was an inauspicious beginning.

But what a spectacular finish.

The Faith Christian Academy baseball team came from behind to defeat District Seven runner-up Eden Christian Academy, 4-1, in the PIAA Class 1A championship game on Friday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State University.

Faith, the District One champion, fell behind early when Eden’s first batter of the game, Noah Emswiler, hit the first pitch straight up the middle for a base hit, eventually scoring on a fielder’s choice.

That run held up until the fifth inning.

With one out, Faith second baseman Cayden Celone and shortstop Ethan Johnson drew back-to-back walks, then Reid Miller singled to load the bases.

Eden brought in Emswiler to pitch. He balked with the bases loaded to score Celone and tie the game.

Then Faith freshman Jagger Verbit singled to score both Johnson and Justin Murray, who was brought in to run for Miller, the pitcher. Later in the inning, right fielder Brandon Labs singled in Verbit to ice the very productive frame.

“Definitely, that was the biggest hit of my life,” said Verbit, the left fielder.

After that, Miller bore down on the mound. He gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked one, throwing 95 pitches in a complete game performance.

“This was definitely the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in,” said Miller, a junior right-hander. “I was more nervous for that first pitch than anything. After that, I was fine.

“That wasn’t a great start, he hit it, but I knew it was just a matter of when we started hitting. We knew what we were going to face and we were ready for it.

“After their first batter got a hit, and we made a mistake in the infield and eventually they scored a run, but we knew if we held it there we had a really good chance.

“In the first three innings, when we couldn’t find a hit, we were actually hitting the ball well. They were just right at them. Then they started to drop, and I knew we were going to be fine.”

Miller was well prepared for the Warriors.

“We knew their first five were going to hit, so we were attacking them with the off-speed,” he said. “Once we got past that, we were attacking with the fastball. My slider was working really well today.

“After that first inning I settled in, trusted my team and I just threw. I don’t think they got a runner in scoring position after that.

“We’re honestly not used to being in that position so I think after they scored first I think our team got down a little bit, but our coaches (head coach Nick Koffel, Philip Nathan, Dan Koffel and Ben Vawter) gave us a really good talk. We got our mentality back. We just felt like if we don’t win the game, we don’t win the game, and it’s fine, and we settled in after that.”

The Lions finish the season 23-0.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Faith senior Kendri Beltre, the catcher. “To finish off my high school career like this is amazing.

“We were behind, but I knew we could do it.”

It is the first state crown in program history.

“To be the first team to win it is really special,” Miller said. “At the beginning of the year, our coaches thought we had a chance, so it was just a matter of doing all the little things we needed to do to get here. We didn’t expect to go undefeated, that was a surprise.”

Grayson Weikel, a senior, played first base, Noah Wilson was in center field, and Dillon Roberts was at third base for Faith.

The Lions reached the title game by defeating District 11 champ Nativity BVM in the opening round, 1-0, topping District Two titlist MMI (Mining and Mechanical Institute) Prep, 11-0, in six innings in the quarterfinal and ousting District Six champion Bishop McCort, 6-1, in the semifinals.

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