ADAMS TWP — Mars High baseball stars David Bednar and Matt Eperesi both turned in solid junior seasons on the diamond.
Lafayette College and Indiana (Pa.) University, respectively, took notice.
Bednar and Eperesi signed letters of intent last month to continue their athletic careers in college. Academics played a major role in each one's decision.
“I plan to major in engineering,” said Bednar. “The education offered by Lafayette, I just couldn't pass up that chance.”
Eperesi's decision to attend IUP was influenced by the school's strong reputation among accounting majors.
Though Eperesi did pitch for the Planets last spring — going 1-1 while working 13.1 innings — he spent most of the campaign as a catcher.
“That's probably going to be where I'll play in college,” said Eperesi. “I like being behind the plate and being involved in every play.”
Mars coach Brian Hobaugh believes Eperesi handled the responsibilities of a catcher very well.
“He's very good at calling pitches and has a strong arm,” he said. “His strongest asset is his quick release.”
Eperesi joined the Planets' varsity team as a sophomore in 2011 and batted .463 in 41 at bats while in the sixth spot in the batting order.
Last season, he moved to the third spot.
“Hitting third in the order, you get a lot of pitcher's pitches,” he said. “I started the season off slow because I was hitting a lot of pitches I should not have been swinging at. By the end of the season, though, I felt I had made the transition successfully.”
Head coach Jeff Ditch has led the Crimson Hawks for seven years. IUP went 25-23-1 last season.
As a sophomore, Bednar showed potential on the mound by going 2-0 in 5.2 innings pitched, but followed it up with an outstanding season last spring. He went 7-2 with an ERA of just 1.23, including a no-hitter. While working 51.1 innings, he struck out 65 compared to just 17 walks.
“I didn't throw much my sophomore year, but I was expecting to have a strong junior season,” he said. “I worked hard for it and had great teammates around me. Fortunately, things worked out for me.”
Aside from his physical traits, Hobaugh likes the intangibles he sees in Bednar.
“He's gritty and determined,” Hobaugh said. “He loves the challenge and thrives on making the big pitch.”
Eperesi was behind the plate for Bednar's no-hitter against Hampton April 12.
“Between high school and summer leagues, I've caught for David the last four years,” said Eperesi. “He works hard and is a great pitcher.”
“I'm really happy for Matt,” Bednar said. “We've worked together in the weight room and I'm very lucky to be throwing to him.”
Unlike many pitchers, Bednar also stood out at the plate, batting .412 and driving in 16 runs.
“I definitely felt I needed to contribute at the plate,” he said. “I've never been that strong of a hitter and the fact I had the season I did, it was a bit of a surprise for me.”
Lafayette is coached by 14-year mentor Joe Kinney. Next spring, the Leopards will look to improve on their 14 wins from 2012.
Bednar and Eperesi helped the Planets to a combined 29-5 regular-season record and a pair of section titles over the last two years. But in both cases, Mars was knocked out of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs following a first-round bye.
“With the way things turned out the last couple of years,” said Bednar, “we are more than hungry to have a better showing in the playoffs.”