HS BASEBALL: Nativity surges past Marian

May 28—POTTSVILLE — All season long, Nativity struggled to get clutch hits in run-scoring situations.

Fletcher Eades and Bryce Lesher ended that trend in a big way Thursday afternoon.

Eades had a two-run single and Lesher followed with a two-run double in a four-run, fifth-inning rally that propelled the Hilltoppers to a 7-3 victory over Marian in a District 11 Class A semifinal atop Lawton's Hill.

The win advances the second-seeded 'Toppers (9-12) to Monday's championship game against Tri-Valley, a 9-5 winner over Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg, at 3 p.m. at Schuylkill Haven's Scott Buffington Field.

"We've been struggling all year to hit ... to get the big hit when we needed it. We got it tonight," Nativity coach Chris Polm said. "Eades had a nice two-out clutch hit there. He's been working his rear end off all year for us, hitting off the tee and doing everything he needs to do to improve. Tonight it showed, when it mattered the most."

The fifth-inning rally came after Marian took a 3-2 lead in the top half of the frame.

The Colts (7-10) tallied a run in the first inning on an RBI single by Jake Chulak and added another run in the second on Dante Agosti's bad-hop triple to left.

Nativity answered in the second on Cameron Strauss' two-out double, then tied the game 2-2 in the fourth when Lesher singled, took third on a throwing error by the right fielder and scored on a wild pitch.

In the top of the fifth, Marian capitalized on two errors and a bunt single by Jake Bobish to regain the lead, as Bobish scored on Chase Petrilyak's RBI groundout.

To this point, Marian starter Brian Hinkle pitched in and out of trouble, with both of Nativity's runs scoring with two outs.

He opened the fifth with a strikeout, then walked Cooper Chiplonia. After Jake Kuperavage popped up for the second out, Keegan Brennan singled to center.

That brought up Eades, who had struck out and flied out against Hinkle in his two previous at-bats. The runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Eades worked the count to 2-1 before roping a pitch to left that plated both Chiplonia and Brennan to give Nativity the lead.

"I was thinking fastball because I was up 2-1, but I knew I was getting curves the whole game," said Eades, a senior catcher. "I've been struggling the past few games, so I was thinking 'Just make contact, get the runners in, don't leave them out there.'

"Two runs ... that was a huge hit."

Dylan Schreffler followed with a single, with courtesy runner Ethan Grabowski taking third. After Schreffler stole second, Lesher stroked a double down the line in left to put the Hilltoppers up 6-3.

All six Nativity runs to that point were scored with two outs.

"He was throwing a lot of curveballs and we struggle with that," Eades said. "Our team just showed up. We hit when we needed to."

Nativity added a run in the seventh on a single by Strauss, a sacrifice bunt by Nolan Ferhat, a strikeout/wild pitch to Chiplonia and a sacrifice fly by Kuperavage.

Hinkle, a freshman, went the distance for Marian, giving up 10 hits, walking one and striking out six. His three wild pitches, however, all came at critical moments and resulted in Nativity runs.

"He was struggling to control the curveball a little bit and those wild pitches were curveballs where he was holding onto it a little bit too much," Marian coach Tony Radocha said. "It didn't have the normal break.

"Credit Nativity. They're an experienced team and they took advantage of that."

The cushion was plenty to work with for Kuperavage, a senior right-hander who scattered seven hits, struck out four, walked none and gave up just one earned run in a complete-game, 78-pitch effort.

"I love the kid to death," Polm said of Kuperavage. "I can't say enough about Jake. He's been our No. 1 pitcher since he's gotten here. This was nice for him to go out with a win.

"Just running a three-ball count to us is a surprise. He's efficient, very efficient."

Kuperavage followed Nativity's four-run fifth-inning outburst with a shutdown, 1-2-3 sixth, then surrendered only a single in a quick seventh inning.

Kuperavage said winning his final game on his home field was a key objective heading into Thursday's game.

"My efficiency is one of my things. I'm always around the plate," Kuperavage said. "Some of our errors, that's how they scored. You have to work around that.

"Playing on your home field one last time ... all of the seniors, last year we were cut short by COVID. This was for all of the seniors last year and definitely for us to go out with a win."

Contact the writer: Lboyer@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6026; @pubsportsboss on Twitter