A Way of Life

Baseball leads Powell into Mars hall

August 21, 2019 Cranberry Local Sports

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Mars' Matt Powell steals second base during a PIAA semifinal game against Mount Union in June 1995. Powell, who graduated with several single-season and career records for Mars' baseball program, will be inducted into the district's athletic hall of fame next month.

This is the fourth in a series of six articles profiling the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame's Class of 2019.

ADAMS TWP — Growing up in Middlesex Township, baseball was a way of life for Matt Powell.

And life was very good.

By the end of his varsity career at Mars, Powell held single-season and career school records for both hits and runs scored. A second baseman, he was a key cog in the Planets reaching the state semifinals in 1995, his senior year.

Powell will be inducted into the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame Sept. 6.

“We had a lot of good players and played in a lot of playoff games,” Powell said. “The more games you play in, the more numbers you put up. This (honor) is really a testament to the teams I played on.”

He also started at guard for two years for Mars' basketball team, but it was clear to Powell and anyone who knew him that baseball was his true passion.

“My dad, Louis, and older brother, Mark, were both really into baseball and I started playing when I was 7-years-old,” said Powell. “I grew up with it. My dad would pitch to me and my mom, Carlyn, would run after the balls.”

Powell joined a varsity program that was used to winning baseball. Mars had gone 56-27 in the five seasons leading up to his arrival.

“Mars was always a decent program and I wanted to be part of it,” Powell said. “I grew up playing with the same crew of guys and there was a lot of camaraderie there.”

After a disappointing early exit from the WPIAL playoffs in 1994, Mars' returning players were looking for redemption the following year.

“I actually think the talent we had my junior year was better than my senior year,” Powell said, “but we still believed we could contend for a WPIAL title.”

Mars won a section title that spring and after playoff wins over Riverview and Elderton, encountered Shenango in the WPIAL semifinals. The Planets' potent offense was blanked in a 1-0 loss at Pullman Park.

“That left a sour taste in our mouth,” said Powell. “We had geared up for the WPIAL playoffs, the state playoffs were an afterthought.”

But then-head coach Brian Hobaugh got his team to switch its focus to just that, the PIAA tournament, in which the Planets had never competed. To get there, Mars first had to defeat Canevin, which it did in a 12-6 decision in the consolation game just two days after the WPIAL defeat.

“Brian was a very positive guy,” Powell said. “He rejuvenated us.”

Powell doubled and singled in a 4-0 win over Northern Bedford in the first round. He and the Planets then exacted revenge on Shenango with a 6-4 victory, sending the team to the state semifinals against a formidable Mt. Union team from District 6.

That's where the Planets' ride ended with a 6-0 loss to the eventual state champion. Powell finished the season with a .465 batting average and 38 runs scored.

“It wasn't a close game and I think that helped take the sting away,” said Powell of the semifinal loss. “It didn't take long for us to (focus) on what we had done. We made a deep run. We jumped right into the legion baseball season. Back then, that's where you played if you wanted to play in the summer.”

Powell went on to play a couple of years at Allegheny College and in the Eagle County League. He now works in the treasury department for U.S. Steel.

He and his wife, Kimberly, have two daughters — Morgan (10) and Mackenzie (8).

“We've coached our daughters in softball and basketball,” Powell said. “To see kids learn something and have things click, it's enjoyable.

“Going into the hall of fame is a great honor,” said Powell. “I appreciate the committee bestowing it on me.”

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Derek Pyda

Derek Pyda

- Graduated from Connellsville High School in 1996
- Graduated from Clarion University in 2000 with a Bachelors in Communications
- Have also written for Clarion News (Clarion, PA) and the Herald-Standard (Uniontown, PA)
- Started at the Butler Eagle on April 2, 2002
- Interests include sports, history and geography