Quintin Kuntz hit the go-ahead, two-run single. Alec Rothrock caught a fly ball on the run and threw to catcher Andrew Null who made the tag, completing a game-changing double play.
All three Montoursville athletes involved in those pivotal plays that paved the way for a 9-3 win over Selinsgrove last Wednesday are sophomores. Youth is in vogue these days at Montoursville. The Warriors start only two seniors, but do not think expectations have changed.
"Everybody thinks we're a pretty young team and that we don't have enough to make it, but I think we're good," Rothrock said after pitching two hitless innings against Selinsgrove. "We have a lot of confidence in ourselves. We have a pretty solid team."
It is hard to argue. The Warriors (2-1) are a play from being 3-0 and have the starting pitching to again be a force in both District 4 Class AA and the HAC-I. Yes, they have made some mental mistakes early, but those are correctable with more experience and there is no reason to think this 18-win team of a year ago cannot again pursue championships.
The Warriors defeated Shikellamy and Selinsgrove last week, showing improved defense against Selinsgrove after Christian Clark pitched six dazzling shutout innings against Shikellamy. Clark and Pierce Ranck are two of the area's premier all-around players and senior first baseman Dalton Young provides a steady bat and excellent defense.
"We need to have solid defense all year," first-year coach Travis Wurster said. "With these new BBCOR bats, pitching and defense are crucial. We have two or three guys we rely on to come in and with Christian and Pierce as our starters that's really key but playing defense behind them is big."
The future appears bright at Montoursville but the present does not look bad either.
These columns usually conclude with me selecting a Game of the Week. That is not so this week because there are just too many terrific games from which to choose. Today alone, two of the season's best early-season games take place when South Williamsport (5-0) hosts Hughesville (4-0) in a battle of unbeatens. A few miles away, Williamsport (4-0) hosts undefeated Jersey Shore in another area heavyweight battle. Up north, archrivals Mansfield and Wellsboro meet in a game in which Mansfield coach Matt Perry goes against his former team.
Two days later, Jersey Shore has another daunting road game when it travels to Montoursville for a game laced between teams who have won at least a share of six straight league championships. Forget about the week ending with a wimper either because South hosts undefeated Montgomery (5-0) Friday before traveling to defending District 4 Class A champion Muncy on Saturday.
The season is still young, but expect all these games to have a playoff-feel in April.
Williamsport had another strong showing at the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Millionaires went 3-0 down south and were closing in on another finals appearance before rain wiped away the remainder of the tournament. Williamsport (4-0) highlighted its three-game sweep with a 2-0 win over 14-time South Carolina state champion Bamberg.
The Millionaires lost their top two pitchers to graduation, but their staff has been outstanding thus far. Jett Bartholomew threw a complete-game shutout against Bamberg while Sadiq Burkholder allowed only one run and four hits in six strong innings against University West Virginia. Add in Ryan Hostrander holding opponents to two runs in 10 innings and the Millionaires might actually be a little deeper pitching-wise than last year if they build off this strong start.
Losing to Jersey Shore 12-3 in its season opener might have been a blessing for Loyalsock. The young Lancers, starting four freshmen, have won five straight since and thumped three opponents, 36-7 last week. Underclassmen pitchers have won all five games, including freshmen Luke Glavin and Kyle Datres. ... Montgomery is off to a great start and romped to three more convincing wins last week. The Raiders won those games by a 47-15 margin and have received big boosts from pitcher Kyle Russell and second baseman Alex Worthington. Russell is 2-0 and had four hits in his last two games while Worthington is 6 for his last 6 with a triple and five runs scored. ... While a team like Muncy (4-3) already has played seven games, some NTL teams like Towanda and Athens did not play their first games until last Thursday. That could make for some interesting pitching situations for those teams as the season progresses.
1. Jersey Shore (6-0)
Third baseman Kaiden Brungard has been igniting a dynamic offense that produced 31 runs in wins over Mifflinburg, Midd-West and Shikellamy. Brungard went 6 for 7 with three doubles, two triples and six RBIs in his last two games. Catcher Ryan Koch also has been wearing out opposing pitchers and has produced three straight multi-hit games. Just as important, Jersey Shore is showing more pitching depth than a year ago as Tellef Notevarp, Caleb Barnhart, Travis Eiswerth and Chris Glunk all have recorded wins.
2. South Williamsport (5-0)
The Mounties are playing like a team on a mission, pounding their first three opponents, 68-3. South has mercy-ruled all five opponents while topping 10 runs in each game. A team with eight starters back from last year's district semifinalist has big-time aspirations and is receiving strong pitching in addition to solid hitting throughout the lineup. Caleb Catherine is off to a torrid start and had seven hits in wins over Sullivan County and Southern Columbia.
3. Williamsport (4-0)
Burkholder has been a two-way threat thus far and went 2 for 2 with a double against Bamberg. Having the tournament stopped by rain might not have been a bad thing since it gave Williamsport a few more days to rest. Had it reached the final it would have had come home Sunday before having to host undefeated Jersey Shore today at Logue Field. The Millionaires are hoping to exact some revenge against the Bulldogs after Jersey Shore rallied from a 4-0 deficit to defeat them, 6-4.
4. Montoursville (2-1)
Ranck earned the win against Selinsgrove and also combined with Clark and Young to turn a rally-killing sixth-inning double play. The lead-off hitter has reached base seven times in three games and scored three runs against the Seals.
"He's a great all-around player. He does everything," Wurster said. "He's normally a shortstop, but we put him at second there to save his arm a little bit and we can interchange Christian and Pierce any time we want because they're both great players. Pierce can do it all. If we stuck him out in right field he'd do it too."
5. Hughesville (4-0)
There certainly is no quit in the Spartans who have overcome deficits in all four games. They rallied from a 2-0 sixth-inning deficit to hand Bloomsburg a 3-2 loss last Monday before handing Central Columbia (3-1) its first loss two days later. Starters and reserves are making an impact and pinch-hitter Tyler Mitcheltree hit a big game-tying single against Bloomsburg. Reliever Justin Lambert already is 3-0 while veterans Jesse Hulien and Levi McCarty are sparking an offense that is producing timely hits.
Players of the Week
Kyle Datres, Loyalsock and
Ryan Orgitano, S. Williamsport
It has not taken Datres long to adjust to varsity baseball. The freshman went 4 for 6 in his last two games with a home run, triple and double while driving in four runs. He also pitched a five-inning complete-game in a 13-1 rout of Warrior Run, striking out 11. Orgitano is hitting as well as anyone in the district, starting 9 for 12. The junior first baseman went 6 for 6 with a home run, a double and five RBIs last week and already has three home runs, in addition to 12 RBIs.
Masse may be reached at email@example.com.