DUBOIS, Pa. – When Adam Fox took over the DuBois Central Catholic baseball program in 2018, he had a goal: win a state championship.
Fox and the Cardinals will have that opportunity Friday morning when they take on defending PIAA Class 1A champion Halifax in the PIAA 1A title game at 10:30 a.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State University in University Park, Pa.
Buy tickets: Tickets must be bought online in advance. There are no gate sales of tickets. Tickets are $8 plus fees and one ticket is good for all three baseball games on Friday, June 17. Tickets can be purchased here.
How to Listen: The Hound, 97.5 FM will be broadcasting the game which can also be heard online here
How to watch: PCN TV (select cable package) or stream via PCN Select ($14.99 for one month). More information is available here or on the NFHS Network ($10.99 per month) here
Follow the Game on Social Media: D9and10Sports will be Tweeting out about the game here
“Absolutely,” Fox said when asked if this was a goal. “Every year we go in and write down the goals. Winning a District championship is one, but ultimately there is more. If you are going to go for something, go for all of it. We are fortunate enough to have good enough athletes to make a run and finally put it all together this year.”
It has been a fantastic season for DCC (21-4), and the Cardinals enter the title game having won 14 in a row since a 3-2 loss in Game One of a doubleheader against Elk County Catholic April 30. That includes five straight in the postseason including a 12-2, six-inning win over Southern Fulton in the PIAA semifinals Monday.
DCC has done it with both its bats and its arms.
The Cardinals are hitting .345 while averaging 8.6 runs per game and have a team ERA of 2.50
DCC isn’t a power-hitting team with only six home runs, but the Cardinals grind out at-bat after at-bat after at-bat.
“We use the ‘yes’ mentality,” Fox said. “We very rarely speak of mechanics. We preach to the kids that your swing is what God gave you. You trust what you have, and you compete with it.”
By the yes mentality, Fox said he means that they teach the players that, yes, they are swinging.
“When they go into the box, the only thought in the box is yes, yes, I am swinging,” Fox said. “Yes, yes, yes, and I am looking fastball. We might get it (the fastball), we might not. But you can’t go up looking for three pitches and expect to hit one. You have to adjust to the two or three other pitches they have. You can’t decide when the ball is in mid-air. The only decision is to stop at the last second and put on the breaks. We use the analogy of a race car going around the track at 200 MPH. Your foot is on the gas, everything is the same, and all of a sudden there is a crash. That is the curve ball in the dirt. You hit the breaks on it. We want to put hitters in an aggressive mindset and free them up mentally. The biggest opponent they have is their mind not the guy on the mound. We tell them to stay on the fastball and trust your approach. The positive side of the brain leads to success.”
Fox said that hitting mentality doesn’t happen overnight, but one of the advantages he has with this team is he has been coaching some of them since they were little since his son, Brayden, is a freshman star for DCC.
“We work on it from the time they come to us as freshmen,” Fox said. “And you watch our young freshman, we have been coaching them since they were six years old. That is why they are so good with two strikes. They have been groomed to have this hitting approach at the plate since they were little. It’s almost bulletproof. We attack the fastball and the curveball and offspeed will hit itself. The other pitches aren’t met to be hit anyway when they are thrown correctly. It’s the mistakes that are hit, what we call cement mixers. A lot of it at the end of the day, it simplifies the game. The game is so hard. When you make it more complicated, it cripples the kids. Our job as coaches is to free them up.”
It’s two freshmen who lead the way on offense for DCC.
Brayden Fox is hitting .471 with five doubles, two triples, a team-leading 36 RBIs, and 29 runs scored, which is second on the team.
Fellow freshman, Aiden Snowberger, the son of assistant coach Evan Snowberger, is hitting .407 with eight doubles, a home run, 23 RBIs, and a team-best 32 runs scored.
Three additional regulars are hitting .370 or better with Carter Hickman checking in at .397, Kaden Brezinski coming in at .382 with a team-leading three home runs with 29 RBIs, and Blake Pisarchik, another freshman who entered the lineup later in the season, hitting .371 with five of his 13 hits going for extra-bases.
Adam Fox said one of the hidden keys to the offense for the Cardinals is their base running.
“One thing we work on more than anything is our base running,” Adam Fox said. “It is such a huge part of the game but such an overlooked part. And it isn’t just about stealing bases. We work on secondary leads and being aggressive and smart base runners. You get in a close game, a one- or two-run game, the game is determined by who is the more polished base-running team.”
While DCC likes to grind out at-bats, the Cardinal pitchers are taught to keep opponent’s plate appearances to three pitches or less.
“Our mentality is three pitches or less,” Adam Fox said. “We want that plate appearance to have an ending in three pitchers or less. Whether that is an out or a hit, we want the hitter out of the box in three pitches or less. That starts with good fastball command. You start with the fastball and you establish the fastball, You can’t shy away from the strike zone.”
Adam Fox said the concept is the same as hitting, simplifying the game.
“It’s just about competing and having an approach and a mindset,” Adam Fox said. “We start with the fastball, and we have to be able to use the secondary pitches to throw off the timing of the hitters.”
DCC will have its ace, Brandin Anderson, going for it in the title game.
Anderson, who is committed to Youngstown State, comes into the contest with a 4-2 record and a 3.07 ERA. In 43 ⅓ innings of work, he has 57 strikeouts and 36 walks, and he is coming off a stellar performance in the PIAA quarterfinals against Saegertown when he threw a four-hit complete game allowing one earned run while striking out five and walking three. He really only had one tough game this season, the season opener against Indiana when he allowed five earned runs. Since then, he has given up just 14 earned runs.
“It’s huge having Brandin,” Adam Fox said. “He is our guy right now. He is going to challenge hitters. He has an upper 80s fastball with a good changeup and a good slider. It’s going to be a tough at-bat against him. Teams have to string together a few good at-bats in a row, and that is tough. When you have the guy with the best stuff, you are going to ride it. He is going to have a full seven days’ rest, and he is peaking right now. I think he is going to be really good on Friday.”
If and when Fox needs to go to his bullpen, he has plenty of options with Cole Sansom, Snowberger, and Hickman all available.
Sansom, who pitched 32 pitches Monday in relief, has been limited to relief duties this year after having Tommy John surgery last year. He has been nothing short of sensational with a 0.47 ERA with 34 strikeouts and just eight walks in 15 innings of work. In the semifinals, he was summed into the game with the bases loaded and one out and proceeded to strike out two to get out of the jam. Then, after losing the feel of his fastball and loading the bases on a walk and two hit batters in the next inning, he went to his curveball and allowed just one run to score.
Snowberger hasn’t pitched since the first-round 15-5 win over Rochester June 6 but comes into the game with a 2.01 ERA with 32 strikeouts and seven walks in 24 ⅓ innings of work.
Hickman would also be available in a pinch after throwing 88 pitches in the semifinal win in a starting role. He is 10-0 on the year with a 1.33 ERA.
“It’s a good feeling having everyone available,” Adam Fox said. “It’s definitely comforting to know we could use them.”
Things won’t be easy vs. Halifax.
Although the Wildcats (19-6) were District 3 runners-up falling 3-1 to Greenwood in the little game, they have rebounded to win three in a row in the state playoffs. All three have been close games, including a pair of extra-inning contests.
Add that to the fact that this is the exact path Halifax took last year to the PIAA title and only two players graduated from that squad, and DCC could be seen as the underdog.
But Adam Fox doesn’t see it that way.
“No, not at all,” Adam Fox said. “They have experience in this game, in this situation. But what I know is the moment won’t be too big for our guys. We have had a bullseye on our back all year, and we have accomplished everything we have set out to accomplish. There is probably more pressure for them to repeat.”
Fox did concede that the Wildcats do have the experience factor on their side.
“Nothing is more beneficial than having experience in that game,” Fox said. “But our slogan all year has been it is about us. We worry about what we can take care of. If you take care of the little things, big things take care of themselves. Both teams have to get 21 outs and one team has to score more than the other.”
The Wildcats strength is in their pitching staff, which comes into the game with a 1.84 ERA.
Senior Eli Tyrrell and junior Judah Miller are co-aces with Tyrrell coming in with a 1.17 ERA and Miller a 1.89 ERA. In 66 innings, Tyrrell has struck out 113 and walked 28, while Miller has 89 strikeouts and 19 walks in 63 innings of work.
Both pitchers saw action in Halifax’s 6-5, eight-inning win over Tri-Valley in the semifinals.
Tyrrell went four innings throwing 78 pitches allowing a run, while Miller went 1 ⅓ innings throwing 36 pitches. Allowing four runs. That meant Trent Strohecker had to come in for 2 ⅔ innings throwing 43 pitchers. Stronhecker has pitched 16 ⅔ innings to the tune of a 1.26 ERA.
Halifax is hitting .274 as a team led by Miller’s .407 average with three home runs, six doubles, five triples, and 15 RBIs.
Stronhecker is hitting .333 with 16 RBIs, while Briar Campbell is hitting .324 with 10 RBIs.
The Wildcats average six runs per game.
NOTES: DCC hasn’t won a state title or been to a PIAA title game since winning the 2001 title (8-7 over Camp Hill) behind the pitching of Mike Milliron and Rocky Davis, a mid-year transfer from Clarion-Limestone who went back to C-L the following fall … Halifax is making its third PIAA championship game appearance. The Wildcats beat Eden Christian, 9-1, last season after falling 8-0 to Riverside in 2005 in Class 2A … The last District 9 team to win a PIAA title was Johnsonburg in 2013 in Class 1A, 5-0 over Canton. Punxsutawney won the 3A title in 2007, and DCC the 1A title in 2001.