MUNCY - Garrett Shnyder was nibbling a bit. His pitch count was rising faster than the space shuttle on takeoff as he struggled to locate his breaking ball.
So he ditched it. When it came time Friday to make a big pitch, the Montgomery senior reared back and threw as hard as he could. For the most part, that was all he needed.
Shnyder struck out 12 Muncy batters last night as he threw a complete-game four-hitter in the Red Raiders' 4-1 road win. Shnyder struck out the side twice, and struck out at least two in an inning four times.
The Red Raiders overcame three errors in the field - two on one play which directly led to Muncy's lone run - and overcame a stellar pitching performance from Muncy starter Doug Zehner to improve to 12-1.
"We're kind of like the Bad News Bears. We don't ever do anything like it's supposed to be in the book," Shnyder said. "We always do things weird, but in the end we end up getting it done. So, it works well for us."
Shnyder didn't have a choice but to be as good as he was Friday. Zehner was nearly flawless for the Indians, making just one mistake - a two-run home run by Shnyder in the seventh inning.
But after a first inning in which Muncy loaded the bases and failed to score, Shnyder was all but unhittable. He retired 19 of the final 23 batters he faced, 11 by strikeout. Muncy was 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. About the only question for Shnyder was if he'd be around to see the end of the game.
He threw 27 pitches in the first inning and had thrown 59 by the end of the third. The hard-throwing right-hander is coming off a shoulder injury that two weeks ago limited his stuff in a loss to South Williamsport.
It was about that time that Shnyder began relying more and more on his fastball. Shnyder worked six three-ball counts in the first three innings. He had just three in the final four innings. He threw 124 pitches yesterday, 83 (67 percent) for strikes. But over the final four innings, he threw 75 percent of his pitches for strikes.
"I got confidence in myself once I got those first couple fastballs by them," Shnyder said. "I established the fastball and started hitting my spots and started getting into that groove. Every pitcher has that groove and I started hitting it and it just went from there."
"We kind of had a game plan at the beginning to work (Muncy's hitters) a little bit and see if they'd commit," Montgomery coach Tom Persing said. "But they're a good, disciplined team at the plate. Toward the end when (Shnyder's) arm got good and loose, we really cut him loose."
Muncy head coach Chris Persing isn't used to seeing his team swing through fastballs the way it did yesterday. He watched his offense, which has struggled for much of the year, fail twice to get a runner in from second base with less than two outs.
With runners on second and third with one out in the first inning, Shnyder sandwiched a walk to load the bases around two strikeouts - both on fastballs. When Clayton Good led off the sixth inning with a single and stole second base before an out was recorded, Shnyder struck out the next three to end the inning.
Last night was the seventh time in 14 games this year the Indians' offense has been held to four runs or less in a game.
"We want to be aggressive in those situations and right now we're swinging right through (a fastball)," Chris Persing said. "I think they're pressing a little bit, trying to do a little too much at the plate, so they're pulling off and swinging through."
"It's now 'how are we missing them?' It's, 'how are we taking them?'" Zehner said. "We're a team that likes to hit those fastball strikes and we can't afford to keep taking them anymore. We have to start swinging and putting the ball in play. We can't have 12 strikeouts anymore."
Montgomery scored a pair of unearned runs, one in the second inning and one in the fifth to take a 2-0 lead. The Red Raiders gave one right back in the bottom of the fifth when Tim Colburn scored following a pair of overthrows when he tried to steal second.
The big blow came from Shnyder in he seventh when he finally got a little breathing room by connecting on a Zehner fastball and sending into the low-hanging branches of the trees in left field. It helped mask an offensive struggle for the Red Raiders that saw them go just 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position through the first six innings.
"It was nice just to get a ball I could handle because I was getting away the whole game," Shnyder said. "I saw that one and my eyes just lit up."
"You can't score runs like we did and win a lot of games," Tom Persing said. "We're going to continue to work on hitting with runners in scoring position. It seems to be our downfall. We seem to string a lot of hits together through a game, but that one big hit that carries things over is kind of what we're lacking."
Montgomery010 010 2 - 4 7 3
Muncy000 010 0 - 1 4 4
Garrett Shnyder and Kyle Russell. Doug Zehner, Skylar Ebner (7) and Kenny Koch. W-Shnyder. L-Zehner.
Top Montgomery hitters: Alex Worthington, 1-4, run; Kyle Russell, 1-4, double; Garrett Shnyder, 1-3, home run, 2 RBIs, run; John Goetz, 2-4, run; Cody Klees, 2-3; Thomas Goetz, RBI. Top Muncy hitters: Tim Colburn, 1-3, run; Skylar Ebner, 2-3.
Records: Montgomery (12-1); Muncy (7-7).