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Clarion, DuBois Central Catholic Took Different Routes to All-D9 State Title Showdown

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (EYT/D9) — In Class A, District 9 is king.

Two teams. One district. A state championship on the line when the Clarion and DuBois Central Catholic baseball teams meet at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday at Penn State University for the PIAA title.

It’s an incredibly rare meeting of two teams from the same district for a championship.

In baseball, it’s happened just twice since 1979.

“The district should be really proud,” said DCC coach Adam Fox. “ I said it last year, ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ These kids from all these schools, whether it’s football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, soccer — whatever other sports I’m missing — if you want to be competitive in this district, you have to put the work and time in. You have to be dedicated. You have to have coaches and staff and parents who are willing to go the extra mile and sacrifice things for the kids. And I think that’s what District 9 is. It’s a hotbed for people who care and people who want to see success.”

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


This year, an all-D9 championship game in Class A was made possible because of a quirk in the bracket. Clarion fought through the western side of the state; DCC was pitted against the east.

Both got here in much different ways.

The Bobcats sliced through their three opponents without giving up a single run. Clarion beat Harmony, 15-0, Saegertown, 10-0, and Southern Fulton, 3-0.

DCC, the defending champion, had a tougher road, downing Bishop Guilfoyle, 8-5, rallying from 5-0 and 7-3 down to topple Greenwood, 9-7, and knocking off Dock Mennonite, 4-2, to get a chance to repeat.

The two teams played on May 29 in the District 9 championship game. DCC led 3-1 after six innings before Clarion rallied with five runs in the top of the seventh to win.

That victory launched the Bobcats on this epic run.

“That actually boosted their confidence quite a bit,” said Clarion coach Rob Jewett. “It made them realize they can pretty much do anything they want as long as they put their minds to it. They’re never really out of any game, no matter who the opponent is or what the deficit is. They keep grinding. I think both teams are gonna come in hungry and we want to be a little bit more hungry than them.”

Clarion’s lineup has feasted this season, especially at the top.

Leadoff hitter and Xavier recruit Dawson Smail is batting .532 with four homers and 28 RBIs. No. 2 hitter Bryce Brinkley is hitting .411. No. 3 batter Noah Harrison is sitting at .471 with a team-leading 30 RBIs and cleanup hitter Derek Smail is at .397 with four homers.

The key, though, has been the way the bottom of the lineup has performed. Dauntae Girvan (.262), Matt Alston (.286) and Hayden Weber (.295) have come up with clutch hits.

“The top three, four are definitely doing what they need to do, but I feel confident in the entire lineup,” Jewett said. “The bottom of the lineup turns things over very nicely.”

Pitching, though, has carried Clarion this season, especially in the state playoffs with those three shutouts.

Junior right-hander Devon Lauer has quietly put together an extraordinary season. He’s 8-1 with an 0.54 ERA. He’s thrown 12 shutout innings in the PIAA postseason.

“His freshman year, he did really well,” Jewett said. “And his sophomore year, he was leaving his pitches up and trying to throw too hard. That was a big question mark coming into this year. But he came in and he just learned how to pitch. He learned how to hit his spots and get people out. He learned that he has a good defense behind him and get soft contact. We preach it, but he taught himself to do it. He’s really come a long way.”

Alston, a sophomore, has also shined at 4-0 with an 0.76 ERA. Tanner Miller (5-0, 1.40) and Derek Smail (2-1, 3.23) have also pitched well.

Clarion has just one senior on the roster, Gary Matus.

Many of the juniors got a lot of playing time as freshman. Clarion exceeded expectations in 2021, going 12-8.

“I remember saying to (assistant coach Lee Weber), ‘If these guys can play this way as freshmen, just imagine what they can do in the next few years when they get some experience,’” Jewett said.

He doesn’t have to imagine it now.

But in DCC, the Bobcats will face a team that has certainly conquered adversity.

The Cardinals are also eager to defend their state championship crown.

DCC (20-5) started the season 0-3, but rebounded, winning 17 of 18 before the loss to Clarion in the D9 final.

“We’ve had a tough three games,” Fox said. “They had to battle and these kids are battle tested.”

DCC has also had to overcome injuries.

Catcher Ben Gritzer broke his hand and has only played 13 games. Shortstop Kaden Brezenski has been playing with a knee injury.

Sophomore Aiden Snowberger has emerged as a dangerous two-way player.

At the plate, he’s batting .440 with a team-leading 12 doubles. On the mound, he’s become the staff ace with an 8-2 record and a 2.40 ERA.

Carter Hickman hasn’t pitched in the state playoffs, but Fox said he should be good to go on Thursday.

There are no secrets between these two teams.

“There’s a lot of familiarity there,” Jewett said. “But what I’m preaching to my guys is that you show up and do your best, no matter who’s on the other side of the field, whether you know him or not. We know a little bit about them and they know a little bit about us. We’re pretty evenly matched. It’s gonna be a good ballgame regardless.”

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