Mars pitcher Bednar, catcher Eperesi ready to forge college careers

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mars pitcher David Bednar and catcher Matt Eperesi formed one of the WPIAL's top baseball batteries the past two seasons.

Even though the two Planets standouts graduated this spring, they'll get to continue their baseball careers in college.

Bednar earned a scholarship to Lafayette College, and Eperesi is headed to Indiana (Pa.) in the fall.

He capped his career as arguably the best pitcher the program has ever produced.

Bednar finished his senior year with a 4-2 record. He had 66 strikeouts and walked 10 in 44 13 innings. He recorded a 0.95 earned-run average.

As a junior, he was 7-2 with 65 strikeouts and 17 walks in 51 13 innings. Overall, he finished with a 13-2 record and 145 strikeouts in 101 13 innings pitched.

“He has been a heck of a pitcher for us for the last three years,” Mars coach Brian Hobaugh said. “He's been one of the better kids we've ever had here, in terms of pitching. He has worked very hard for that. He deserves a lot of the credit. He is very dedicated to doing a lot of the little things.

“His offseason conditioning and strengthening, he's very faithful with that. I think that's part of the difference for him. When the time came for the season to start, he was that much better in terms of his physical condition and muscular conditioning than a lot of the other people.”

Following a pair of section titles, the Planets hoped for more success this season. However, Hampton dethroned them for the Section 5-AAA championship.

Mars drew a tough Blackhawk squad in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

The Cougars prevailed, 2-0, in a duel among two of the WPIAL's top pitchers in Bednar and Blackhawk's Brendan McKay.

McKay, a junior lefty, limited the Planets to one hit (Bednar's infield single), struck out 16 and walked just one.

Bednar, a righty, struck out the first six batters he faced and finished the game with 12.

He scattered five hits, walked three and allowed one earned run.

However, that wasn't Bednar's last high school game.

Along with Mars teammate Ben Erdahl, Bednar participated in the 10th annual WPIAL all-star doubleheader in early June.

Bednar pitched for the Class AAA all-stars and helped the squad defeat the Class AAAA all-stars, 10-9.

Bednar came on in relief and allowed one hit in 3 13 innings as Class AAA rallied for the win.

“That was a nice honor for him. It didn't surprise me how well he did, just because of the way he has worked, particularly the past three years. He had that maturity to work hard and be really diligent. It paid off for him,” Hobaugh said.

“He got a chance to go against some very good kids and proved he could pitch at a higher level.”

Bednar relies on his fastball and sweeping curve.

“He has two really good pitches. His fastball and curveball are very good. He hit 90 and 91 (on the radar gun) on at least five occasions against Blackhawk, which is what I was told. I think he's normally in the upper 80s,” Hobaugh said.

“He has a good curveball — just ask any kid who faces him. His curveball is more of a 12-to-6 break. Kids don't see that too often in high school. He had an outstanding career at Mars.”

Bednar hopes to continue his success at Lafayette, an NCAA Division-I school in Easton, Pa.

Eperesi will continue at IUP, which plays in the D-II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

“Matt was a good one for us, too,” Hobaugh said.

Eperesi started behind the plate for the Planets and was the team's No. 3 hitter the past two years.

His sophomore year, he split catching duties with Bednar and played third base when Bednar was catching.

“Matt is real good at blocking balls. He calls a good game. He has a real good arm,” Hobaugh said.

“If you look at the percentage of guys thrown out, that won't tell you how strong his arm is. He is pretty solid back there.”

Eperesi was second among Planets regulars with a .373 batting average. He had a team-best 25 hits, 22 RBIs and nine doubles.

He chipped in on the mound, too.

He pitched 17 23 innings and had a 2.77 ERA.

“He lettered three years for us, like David. Probably his best attribute was his hitting. He's just an excellent hitter,” Hobaugh said.

“He hit a lot of balls in the alleys, hit a lot of line drives and drove in a lot of runs. He likes to keep his hands inside the ball and hit it up the middle or the opposite way.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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