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PIAA-A BASEBALL: Southern Fulton remains confident heading into state quarterfinals

This seems to be working just the way Southern Fulton had hoped.

After needing just five innings to take down Millersburg in the opening round of the PIAA Class A baseball playoffs on Monday, the Indians got to ensure Connor Litton's pitching eligibility and take a few days off while waiting for their opponent.

On Thursday, Southern Fulton (23-2) will travel to Hershey H.S. for a quarterfinal game at 4 p.m. against Tri-Valley, the District 11 champion, which just played its first-round game Wednesday, beating Christopher Dock 5-1.

"I think the biggest advantage is that we used our No. 2 pitcher in the opening round, so we still have (Trent) Rider," SF coach Dustin Fischer said. "They used their No. 1 (Hunter Bordner), who was 10-2 coming into Wednesday. If you look at their season stats, he's done the majority of their pitching."

The Bulldogs (16-8) may be looking at starting a freshman pitcher Thursday. According to their stats on MaxPreps, Jacob Masser (2-4), Will Kimmel (2-2) and Ashton Buchanan (1-0) are the only pitchers other than Bordner to throw more than 10 innings this year, and all three are freshmen.

Rider, on the other hand, has thrown 59 1/3 innings and boats a 1.42 ERA. He also can be backed by Litton, who is 5-1 in 31 1/3 innings and has a 0.45 ERA.

"We're going with Trent, but if for some reason, something would happen and we need relief, Connor is still eligible," Fischer said. "It's worked out well for us as far as pitching because pretty much everyone on our staff is still eligible."

Rider won't be facing the toughest of offenses, either. Tri-Valley starts five freshmen and has a team batting average of .279. Hunter Herb (.417) is the only player with an average higher than .400 and just four players are above .300.

"I know they start five freshmen in their lineup, but they've made it this far," Fischer said, "so you can't take anything away from the kids. They obviously have talent. I hate to put a lot of value in stats because you never know the teams they play, but this is who we wanted."

The only common opponent the teams do have is Millersburg, to which Tri-Valley lost 1-0 in the third game of the season.

Southern Fulton may be the favorite entering Thursday's contest, but what's going to be really important is if the Indians can live up to the hype. And Fischer seems confident they can.

"Our starting lineup has a lot of experience in the playoffs, across multiple sports," Fischer said. "They're used to playing in bigger games, and the majority of them play travel ball, so they play very competitive, very talented teams. I know the nerves are coming, the further we go, but I'd hope for that. If you don't get nervous or anxious about something, it means you're not excited anymore. We're very excited."