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CHAMPIONSHIP BOUND: Clarion Earns Third Consecutive State Playoff Shutout to Punch Ticket to PIAA Title Game

CRESSON, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Three state playoff games.

Three wins.

Zero runs given up.

Even Clarion baseball coach Rob Jewett can’t quite explain it. But he’ll certainly take it.

(Pictured above, Dawson Smail and Gary Matus celebrate after winning the District 9 championship)

“That’s pretty unheard of,” Jewett said after the latest shutout, a 3-0 blanking of Southern Fulton orchestrated by Devon Lauer and Derek Smail on the mound at Mt. Aloysius College on a soggy Monday afternoon that sends the Bobcats to the PIAA Class A title game. “I don’t know, but I give credit to the guys. They are putting the work in. They trust our system and it’s been fun to sit back and watch.”

The last time a Clarion pitcher gave up a run was in the fourth inning on May 29 in the District 9 championship game against DuBois Central Catholic.

Since, it’s been 18 innings of zeros.

Clarion Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.


The Bobcats have won state playoff games this month by scores of 15-0, 10-0 and now 3-0.

Lauer and Smail both danced around trouble after a nearly two-hour delay to the start of the game because of pesky rain.

Lauer, who came in on an eight-inning scoreless streak in the PIAA postseason, threw up four more scoreless innings, striking out two and walking two. He gave up four hits and wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Smail relieved him and got the save, tossing three shutout innings. He gave up two hits, struck out four and walked three. He also worked out of a bases-loaded situation in the sixth.

“He hasn’t had to throw in a while, so I was hoping he wasn’t going to be very rusty,” Jewett said of Smail. “We came out and threw strikes.”

Ethan Mellott started for Southern Fulton and threw two scoreless innings before yielding to Owen Oakman in the third.

Mellott also played with fire, walking four in his two innings of work, but he was able to avoid any damage.

Oakman did the same until the bottom of the fourth when Clarion finally broke through.

Tanner Miller, who opened the inning by reaching on an error, scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Weber. Dawson Smail followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Matt Alston for a 2-0 lead.

Clarion tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth on a RBI single by Dawson Smail that brought home Dauntae Girvan.

“That was huge,” Jewett said of the insurance run. “Again, Dawson came up with a clutch hit there. That run was probably biggest for Derek. It’s a little bit easier to go in there pitching up by three runs than it is by two, especially with the meat of their lineup coming up. We always say you can never have enough runs.”

With this string of shutouts, one is enough.

Clarion (20-4) will make its first state title appearance since 2017 when the Bobcats fell to Meyersdale, 2-0.

Clarion will take on either familiar foe DuBois Central Catholic or Dock Mennonite at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday at Medlar Field at Penn State University.

The DCC-Dock Mennonite game was postponed by rain until Tuesday. It will be played at 4 p.m. at Bloomsburg.

Should DCC win, it would set up a very rare state championship game between teams from the same district.

That hasn’t happened since 2014 when Pope John Paul II and Harriton, both from District 1, played for the Class 3A championship.

It last happened in Class 2A (the lowest class) in 1979.

“That would get D9 some clout, right?” Jewett said.

Clarion, though, isn’t focused on who it will play for the state crown, just how it will play when it gets there.

Right now, the Bobcats are playing the best baseball perhaps in program history.

“They have a ton of confidence,” Jewett said. “They believe in each other. They’re really coming together as a team, and that’s the kind of stuff you need to make these championship runs. I try to keep them grounded and say, ‘You might never ever get this experience again in your entire life. So love it, live it, and don’t take it for granted.’”

Clarion Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.