MONTGOMERY - Seconds after recording the final out, Alex Worthington jogged toward the third-base line, shook coach Tom Persing's hand and put his glove down. Following a post-game team meeting, Worthington started running laps.
He had just pitched the game of his life, but there was no cause for celebration. This was just what Worthington considered another day at the office.
Worthington pitched a brilliant complete-game 1-hitter Monday while leading Montgomery to a 2-0 win over St. John Neumann. The right-hander allowed only a fifth-inning infield single and pitched 4 2/3 no-hit innings while striking out seven. And as outstanding as he was, the three-year starter simply believed he played the way a team leader should.
"I just have to keep the younger guys on the right track and make sure they're doing the right thing," Worthington said. "I just wanted to get the guy at the plate and let the fielders make the plays."
Worthington is one of only four starters back from last year's district finalist but he also is a big reason the Red Raiders (8-1, 6-1) are off to another strong start. The junior had never pitched high school baseball before this season, but when Persing told him in the offseason to be ready, Worthington went to work.
The results have been impressive. Worthington is 3-0 and Montgomery needed him to throw a gem yesterday since Neumann's Doug Hasko also was terrific, pitching a three-hitter.
Neumann (3-6, 2-5) threatened in each of the first six innings, putting at least one runner on each time. Worthington always fought back, though, striking out seven and letting only one advance past second.
"I didn't think it would go like that. We didn't hit the ball as well but we fielded it a lot better this game," Worthington said. "I kept getting behind in the count and coach came out and told me I had to start doing better and I talked to (catcher) Mike Alexander and he told me to keep throwing outside. The ump was calling them outside so I kept throwing them and getting groundballs for the infielders to get."
Montgomery took a 1-0 first-inning lead when Garrett Shnyder hit a two-out single and stole second. Luke Forrestal scored Shnyder moments later, belting a RBI single to center field. The Raiders delivered only one hit off Hasko the rest of the way, scoring a third-inning run off a walk, a Kyle Russell bunt and two errors.
Hasko pitched his best varsity game, striking out nine and retiring 11 of the last 13 batters he faced. Hasko grew stronger as the game progressed and recorded four of his strikeouts in the final two innings.
"That was a nice game. They pitched it well, we pitched it well," Neumann coach Ed Danneker said. "I have nothing to complain about with the guys. They played it hard, but we didn't have the hits to back up our pitching."
Cody Forsburg beat out a two-out, fifth-inning single, providing Neumann with its lone hit. Brock Danneker was then hit by a pitch before Hasko flew out to left field. Hasko hit the ball hard, but with the wind blowing in, it was an easy catch.
Neumann, which has only 10 players, continues making progress. The Knights nearly reached the playoffs for the first time last year and are hoping to make history this season. Outside of South Williamsport, who has pounded every HAC-III team, Neumann has competed with everyone in the league, including last year's District 4 Class A finalists, Montgomery and Muncy. The Knights lost those games by three combined runs and can take some positives from yesterday's performance against a team that has just one loss.
"It's nice to walk away 2-0 and not 20-0 or something like that," Danneker said. "It's good for the team and good for the guys. "We have to play the big teams tough like this so we can keep a good mental mindset."
Worthington maintained that all game and despite being at 109 pitches after six innings, was at his best in the seventh. Complementing his fastball with a knee-buckling curve, Worthington worked his first perfect inning and retired the order on only five pitches.
It was a quality win for a team that is still jelling. And if the hitting soon catches up to the pitching, Montgomery becomes especially dangerous.
"We're taking baby steps," Worthington said. "If we keep building off this defense and work on our hitting in the cages and at practice and take that seriously we'll be tough."
Neumann000 000 0-0 1 3
Montgomery101 000 x-2 3 2
Doug Hasko and Ryan Reid. Alex Worthington and Mike Alexander. W-Worthington, (3-0). L-Hasko, (0-2).
Top Neumann hitter: Cody Forsburg 1-3. Top Montgomery hitters: Garrett Shnyder 1-2, R; Luke Forrestal 1-2, RBI; Alexander 1-2, R.
Records: Montgomery 8-1, 6-1. Neumann 3-6, 2-5.