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Rider takes over in 3rd to give SF 6-3 win in PIAA opener

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The Southern Fulton baseball team knew Greensburg Central Catholic was a good-hitting team, but after the first pitch of Monday's PIAA Class A first-round game, which was hit all the way to the right-center field fence for a double, the Indians had to take a moment to regroup.

Despite digging itself a three-run deficit in the first two innings off of bunts and wild pitches, Southern Fulton capitalized on Greensburg's pitching struggles, and turned on the bats for a 6-3 victory at McConnellsburg H.S.

The Indians will play Vincentian, the third seed out of District 7, which won 4-3 over DuBois Central Catholic in 13 innings, on Thursday in the quarterfinals. Time and location are still to be determined.

Without ace Trent Rider starting on the mound, the pressure was on sophomore Cooper Grove. But that was Southern Fulton's plan all along.

"Our theory was we were going to throw them a lot of junk and make them earn their hits, but the flip side is there are going to be a lot of balls in the dirt," Southern Fulton coach Dustin Fischer said. "We knew all our pitchers were going to be on a really short leash."

Grove pitched just one inning after allowing three runs, relieved by Carl Potter in the second inning.

After falling in a 3-0 hole, Tanner Elbin got things started for Southern Fulton (19-4) in the bottom of the second inning with a single to center field. The following batter, Brandon Lynch, a lefty, was plunked by left-handed pitcher J.P. Pellis, followed by another walk drawn by Grove to load the bases with no outs. Mitch Potter, who has not played since the first round of districts, knocked in the first Southern Fulton run with an RBI single to center.

With two outs on the board, Pellis began to crumble. He hit Zach Clark for the second time, and walked Rider to bring in the game-tying run and kept the bases loaded.

"J.P. didn't have his best stuff today," Greensburg coach Nick LoNigro said. "Some of his pitches were working, some were getting left up a little bit. But it was kind of crazy that the three hit batters were all left-handed, so there was something there with that pitch he was trying to throw."

Pellis struck out the following Southern Fulton batter, but the damage was done. And with Rider warming, Greensburg (16-5) had lost its momentum.

"They were walking us, they were hitting us, and we were capitalizing on whatever they were giving us," Fischer said. "We've been doing that a lot here at the end of the season. Whatever mistakes teams are making, we are capitalizing on them and making them pay for them."

"We know our hitting isn't as strong as it was before, but we are still good enough to put runs on the scoreboard," Dylan Gordon said. "We sort of got in (Pellis's) head, and we wanted to be patient and make him throw the maximum amount of pitches."

Mitch Potter went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, while Clark and Grove got on base twice by drawing walks.

Rider emerged in the third inning for a "good bullpen" session, throwing just 49 pitches in the remaining five innings, all the while allowing just one hit, and striking out eight batters.

"I really didn't have any intention of throwing today, but once I saw how the game was going on, I just wanted to compete and get on the mound and start throwing to give my team a better chance to win," Rider said. "Today was very promising - we had some guys step up. But I think we can really compete in states this year based on the way things went today."