MONTGOMERY - Coming off a Wednesday loss, Montgomery approached Thursday's game against South Williamsport a little differently. Instead of taking lots of pre-game defensive and hitting practice, the Red Raiders took none.
"We just wanted to get back to sand-lot baseball," coach Tom Persing said. "Just have fun and enjoy the game."
Of course, it is a lot easier to take that approach when Garrett Shnyder is pitching. A senior who has more career wins than any other area pitcher, Shnyder has displayed a knack for pitching well in big games. Yesterday, might have been his best yet.
Montgomery players celebrate after their 9-inning victory over previously unbeaten South Williamsport on Thursday at Montgomery. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
Shnyder threw a five-hit, nine-inning complete game with seven strikeouts and dominated the district's highest scoring offense as Montgomery won 2-1 and ended South's undefeated season. Cody Klees drove in both Montgomery (15-2, 11-2 HAC-III) runs and his two-out, walk-off single scored Cameron McHenry with the winning run. A team that had won 15 straight, that pounded Montgomery 15-0 last month and that was averaging 12 runs per game had no answer against Shnyder.
"Nothing lasts forever so if somebody had to beat them I'm happy it was us," Shnyder said. "This is probably one of the best I've ever pitched. Nine innings, not giving up a lot of hits and I made my strikeouts when I had to... I just found my groove."
Shnyder often does against South. While he took the loss in the teams' first game, Shnyder was victimized by a defense that made seven errors and was making his first start after recovering from a preseason arm injury. Since then, he has been just about untouchable and has won four straight decisions while allowing just 13 hits during that time.
Andrew Gipe hit a two-out, second-inning RBI single that put South (15-0, 12-1) up 1-0, but that was all Shnyder allowed. After throwing 50 pitches through two innings, the right-hander consistently worked ahead and averaged just 12 pitches per inning the rest of the way, finishing with 133. He pounded the corners with a fastball clocked as high as 86 miles per hour and kept South off-balance with a steady diet of curveballs and changeups.
South repeatedly threatened to take a lead after Klees tied with a single in the bottom of the second, but Shnyder never buckled and improved to 5-1 against the Mounties. In those five wins, he has allowed only three earned runs in 34 1/3 innings.
"I just feel like when I'm out there against those guys I have the utmost confidence in my fielders and that we can get it done at the plate when we have to," said Shnyder who was boosted by three double plays. "That helps a lot. All my teammates did great tonight.
"It doesn't get much better than that. You beat a team that's 15-0 and 10-running everybody through the whole year, including us and you shut them down and go nine innings, that's just a great performance," Persing said. "He's just a good athlete and good things happen to people who put time in and work. He just didn't come off the bench and learn to pitch like that. He put time in growing up and that's why he is one of the top pitchers in the area."
And Klees is one of Montgomery's top hitters in big moments. The senior first baseman drilled a game-tying hit against Warrior Run and a walk-off hit against Muncy already so Persing was confident the right player was up with two outs in the ninth.
John Goetz fought back from an 0-2 count to work a leadoff walk before being erased on McHenry's fielder's choice. Thomas Goetz drew a one-out walk before Cal Missigman recorded his fourth strikeout for the second out. That set the stage for Klees who worked a 2-0 count before lofting a blooper toward shallow center field. That ball was perfectly placed and neither the center fielder nor second baseman could get there in time as it dropped in and scored McHenry.
"I just had to put the ball in play and make them make the play. I was hoping it would drop," Klees said. "I just keep working and hopefully good things happen."
"We call him Mr. Clutch," Persing said. "He's a good guy to have up there. He puts the ball in play when he needs to. It might not be all the time but it's at the right time."
Missigman, starter Caleb Catherine and Alex Carpenter pitched great for South, allowing only four hits and striking out 12. All three stayed eligible for Saturday's Backyard Brawl as well and were backed by a flawless defense that made no errors.
On most days this season, that combination has meant South would win via the mercy rule but it never could deliver that timely hit over the final seven innings, despite having runners on base in eight of nine innings. South had first and second with no outs in the third and did not move runners and also stranded runners at first and second with one out in the eighth after Ray Farr and Alex Worthington turned their third double play.
"That's poor baseball. You have to move runners and hit behind runners. We have a lot of season left so we'll learn from it and be ready to go this weekend," South coach Shawn Finn said. "A lot of friends and fans have asked me, 'do you want to get that one loss so the kids understand?' We've lost games, they've lost games before so no, we want to win every game we play."
South already has clinched a share of its first HAC-III championship and will win it outright if it defeats Millville next week. If the Quakers pull the upset and Montgomery wins its final league game, it and South would share the crown.
South010 000 000-1 5 0
Montgomery010 000 001-2 4 3
Caleb Catherine, Cal Missigman (4), Alex Carpenter (6), Missigman (9) and Kyle Eck. Garrett Shnyder and Kyle Russell. W-Shnyder, (4-1). L-Missigman, (0-1).
Top South hitters: Ryan Orgitano 1-4, 2B; Andrew Gipe 1-4, RBI. Top Montgomery hitters: Russell 1-3, 2B; Cam McHenry 1-3, 2B, R; Cody Klees 2-4, 2 RBI.
Records: Montgomery 15-2, 11-2. South 15-1, 12-1.