Avonworth had already gone 14 innings to win a game this postseason.

So, needing only nine innings to win another Thursday probably seemed like a short afternoon.

Jack Dolan hit the go-ahead RBI single and Carson Franc threw 6⅔ innings of scoreless relief to push Avonworth into the PIAA semifinals for the first time following a 5-4 win against District 10 champion Fairview in a Class 3A quarterfinal at Slippery Rock University.

Avonworth (17-9) had only one PIAA win ever prior to these playoffs, but the WPIAL champion Antelopes got their second of the week by edging Fairview (17-4), which lost in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive season. The Tigers lost to eventual champion Riverside a season ago, a team that Avonworth outlasted in 14 innings to win a WPIAL title last week.

Brandon Sapolsky helped Avonworth to its eighth consecutive win by drawing a leadoff walk in the top of the ninth. Following a wild pitch on a stolen base attempt that moved him up to third, Sapolsky scored his third run of the game on Dolan’s sharp single to center to give the Antelopes their first lead since the third inning.

“He’s come up big for us,” second-year Avonworth coach Jeff Bywalski said of Dolan, a sophomore third baseman. “He had a walk-off hit against Burrell [in the WPIAL semifinals] and now the winning RBI against Fairview. He struggled a little early on in the day. He made a couple of mistakes in the field. But he kept his head, and I told him he’d get another at-bat. And he came up big.”

Fairview put runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth, but Franc got the final batter to pop up to end the game.

Franc, a sophomore right-hander, was an unlikely pitching star for Avonworth. Thursday’s appearance was just his fourth of the season and first since April 25, but Franc came up big after taking over for starter Aidan Tinker in the third inning. Tinker exited during an inning in which Fairview scored three runs to take a 4-3 lead. Franc entered with one out and two Fairview runners on base but struck out the first two hitters he faced to end the inning. He went on to allow only two hits (both singles) and two walks while striking out eight to claim his first varsity win.

“He’s a guy who basically we know is going to be a guy who pitches for us next year, but due to certain circumstances we had to use him today, and, boy, did he step up big,” Bywalski said of Franc, who had two RBIs in a 6-1 win against Martinsburg Central in Monday’s first round.

Avonworth raced to a 3-0 lead in the game. Mason Metz delivered a run-scoring single in the first, and the Antelopes plated two more on a Fairview throwing error in the second. Fairview then took advantage of an Avonworth error to cut its deficit to 3-1 in the second before using a three-run third to surge into the lead. Luke Rzodkiewicz hit a two-run single, and the Tigers added another run on an Avonworth error. Metz then came through with his second RBI single of the contest to knot the score at 4 in the fifth.

A week after winning its first WPIAL title in 32 years, the Antelopes are now a win away from playing for their first PIAA title. They will take on Punxsutawney in next Monday’s semifinals.

“It’s phenomenal,” Bywalski said. “To be able to play in the state championship, it would be an unbelievable experience for the whole team. Hopefully we have one more win left in us.”

Other Class 3A

• District 9 champion Punxsutawney (17-3) scored all four of its runs in the first inning and went on to eliminate WPIAL third-place finisher South Allegheny (20-6), 4-1, at 1st Commonwealth Field in Homer City. Following a rain delay, the game was called in the bottom of the sixth with South Allegheny batting and no outs. Punxsutawney, which moves onto the semifinals for the third year in a row, scored three of its runs on two South Allegheny errors. Adam Jackowski’s groundout scored Josh Jackowski in the second for South Allegheny’s only run.

Class 5A

• Cayden Gibbons’ sacrifice fly in the seventh lifted District 6 champion Hollidaysburg (16-5) to a 3-2 win against WPIAL champion Penn-Trafford (21-4) at Sargent’s Field at the Point in Johnstown. With the score tied, 2-2, Hollidaysburg’s Jake Hileman led off the seventh with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on Gibbons’ sacrifice fly to center. Carmen Metcalfe had an RBI double in the second and Logan Matrisch an RBI single in the fourth for Penn-Trafford, which lost in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.

Class 4A

• Mark Collinger drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh to propel WPIAL runner-up Indiana (15-10) into the semifinals for the first time courtesy of a 6-5 win against District 3 winner East Pennsboro (20-3) at Mount Aloysius. Hunter Martin had an RBI single earlier in the inning for Indiana, which scored two runs in both the sixth and seventh to rally from a 5-2 deficit. Kadin Homer had a pair of RBIs for the Little Indians, while Ben Ryan and Charlie Manzi each had two hits. Indiana beat East Pennsboro, 2-1, in the first round last year.

• In a battle of district third-place finishers, District 3’s Fleetwood (15-8) scored two runs in both the first and second innings before holding on to capture a 5-3 win against WPIAL foe Montour (17-8) at Governor’s Park in Bellefonte. Mike Ivanoff had an RBI single and Jason George an RBI double for Montour, which was trying to reach the semifinals for the third time in four years. Ivanoff finished with a pair of hits for Montour, which collected eight overall. Dalton Young hit a two-run single in the first for Fleetwood. The Tigers advanced to the semifinals for the first time.

Class 1A

• Winning pitcher Brady Hull struck out 11 while adding three hits and three RBIs to vault WPIAL runner-up Eden Christian (18-6) to its ninth win in its past 11 games, an 11-4 triumph against WPIAL third-place finisher Avella (13-7) at Ross Memorial Park. The Warriors, who reached the final in 2021, scored at least one run in every inning to defeat Avella for the second time this postseason. They beat the Eagles, 11-2, in the WPIAL semifinals. Hull went 3 for 5 with a home run and three RBIs while allowing two runs in five innings. Aidyn Helsley went 4 for 4 with three RBIs.

PIAA quarterfinal scores

Class 5A

Hollidaysburg 3, Penn-Trafford 2

Class 4A

Fleetwood 5, Montour 3

Indiana 6, East Pennsboro 5

Class 3A

Avonworth 5, Fairview 4 (9)

Punxsutawney 4, South Allegheny 1 (5)

Class 1A

Eden Christian 11, Avella 4

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.