Reynaldo Adames, Cody Shaffer and Brian Reich stepped forward and in unison grabbed the Pap Giles Tournament championship trophy. It was a scene Milton's three seniors hardly could have imagined participating in two years ago while suffering through a 2-18 season.
It seemed fitting, though, that on one of District 4's most hallowed fields, they and their teammates officially signaled how good they have become in such a short time.
Adames belted five hits, scored seven runs and made repeated outstanding defensive plays. Reich and Shaffer threw complete-games and Milton romped to the championship Saturday at Montoursville, thumping Wellsboro, 11-2 in the semifinals and the host Warriors, 10-2 in the final.
"I can't say enough about our guys, especially our seniors, because when you come into a new program you need your seniors to buy in, otherwise you're not going to get far with the other guys and they've been great for me," first-year Milton coach Chace Phillips said. "I wish I had two more years with them. Rey, Cody and Brian really stepped up and they carried us today."
Wellsboro took third-place in dramatic fashion, scoring four times in the final inning and edging archrival Mansfield, 6-5 on Connor Coolidge's 2-run walk-off double.
The Black Panthers (15-4) finished the regular season 15-4 and next play in the District 4 Class AAA championship against Jersey Shore. Oh how the times have changed for a program that had not made the playoffs since 2007.
"It feels good. We've been trying for this for so many years. Last year we got close to this and we knew we were going to get it this year," Adames said. "We want to get everything this year and we're going to keep fighting. We're going to try and go all the way. That's our dream."
It seems attainable if Milton continues playing the way it has. The Panthers have won 10 of their last 11 games and outscored three opponents over the past two days, 27-6. The Panthers played well in all facets yesterday and scored eight first-inning runs against Montoursville (11-8), stunning a team that had beaten it 12-2 on that same field early in the season.
It all started with Adames. The senior center fielder and leadoff hitter went 5 for 8 at the tournament, reaching base his first seven times and scoring seven times. Adames opened the bottom of the first against Montoursville with a lead-off single and later highlighted the eight-run eruption by hitting a mammoth home run to left-center field that made it 8-0.
And he might have been in even better in the field. Adames caught everything hit his way in both games and made two spectacular two-out catches against Wellsboro that took away RBI hits. Early on that game was 2-2 and if Adames had not made those plays, Wellsboro easily could have built a double-digit lead. It was an impressive show by a talented player who was an infielder all his life before last year.
"Last year they moved me to center and I was like, 'why?'" Adames said. "I guess it's because I'm fast and I kind of like it now. Everywhere they hit the ball I go get it. It's fun."
"His play in the field today was beyond impressive," Phillips said. "The way he went and got the ball and the way he swung the bat, he's really locked in right now."
So was Montoursville in the day's first game when it pounded Mansfield, 14-0 in five innings. The Warriors scored eight first-inning runs before Mansfield batted while Christian Clark and Jacob Jones combined on a two-hitter. Clark also hit a long two-run home run and Montoursville finished with 12 hits while scoring 14 times in the first three innings.
Shaffer, though, never let Montoursville re-establish itself. The senior won his fifth game, spotting his pitches well and scattering six hits while allowing just one earned run. The Warriors pulled within 8-2 in the third inning on Dalton Young's RBI single, but Brady Chappell continued his stellar day in the bottom half, hitting a two-run home run and making it 10-2 again. Chappell went 5 for 8 in both games, hitting behind Adames, while driving in four runs.
Montoursville has little time to lament losing in the final for the first time in three years since it travels to Wellsboro Tuesday for the first round of the District 4 Class AA playoffs.
"A new season starts Tuesday. We're 0-0 and it's not how you start, it's how you finish so we'll see where we're at," Montoursville coach Travis Wurster said. "They really got themselves up for that Williamsport game (a Backyard Brawl win) so I'm hoping here in the playoffs every game is like that because it's do or die now."
Just like at the Brawl, sophomore pitcher Teigan Herlehy was terrific in relief. The left-hander entered in the first inning once again and allowed only five hits in 5 2/3 innings while striking out six. Against Loyalsock and Milton, teams with 33 combined wins, Herlehy has surrendered eight hits in 12 2/3 innings.
"Teigan Herlehy is really stepping up and he might take our No. 2 spot the way he's been going," Wurster said. "He did a great job."
Wellsboro did as well when it scored four times in the bottom of the sixth and completed a season sweep of Mansfield in a game shortened because of a two-hour time limit. The Green Hornets (12-5) pulled within 5-4 on Brandon Owlett's double and that set the stage for Coolidge who had struck out in his previous at-bat.
Eager to redeem himself, Coolidge slammed the first pitch he saw into deep center field, scoring Owlett and Luke Rudy with the winning runs.
"I was thinking my last at-bat I was too patient and waited too long for something decent so if I found something I liked the very next pitch I was going to smack it as hard as I could," said Coolidge who started on Wellsboro's 2010 district finalist. "It gives us a little boost. Some people underestimate us and don't expect us to go anywhere, but I have a good feeling. I think we can make it as long as we play smart and play the baseball that we can play."
Montoursville 14, Mansfield 0
Montoursville833 00-14 12 0
Mansfield000 00-0 2 5
Sam Rotella, Jarred Burd and Brady Andrews. Christian Clark, Jacob Jones (3) and Andrew Null. W-Clark, (5-2). L-Rotella.
Top Montoursville hitters: Curtis Miller 2-3, 2 R; Clark 1-3, 2-run HR, 2 R; Dalton Young 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Ryan Mondell 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Matt Shea 1-1. Top Mansfield hitters: Taylor Hillson 1-2, 2B; Skye Stiner 1-2.
Milton 11, Wellsboro 2
Wellsboro020 000 0-2 8 5
Milton212 320 x-11 9 1
Thomas Johnston, Brandon Owlett (4), Matt Reese (6) and Ben Shaw. Brian Reich and Brady Chappell. W-Reich, (5-1). L-Johnston (2-1).
Top Wellsboro hitters: Nick Callahan 1-3, 2B; Bill Sell 1-2. Top Milton hitters: Reynaldo Adames 2-4, 2 RBI; RBI, 4 R, SB; Chappell 2-4, 2B, RBI; Jordan Bordner 1-3, RBI; Chad Diggan 1-2, 2B, RBI.
Wellsboro 6, Mansfield 5
Mansfield101 210-5 8 0
Wellsboro010 104-6 6 1
Burd, Bryce Zaparzynski (2), Brendan Holleran (4), Hillson (6) and Andrews. Pat Herres, Reese (6) and Shaw. W-Reese. L-Hillson.
Top Mansfield hitters: Hillson 2-3, 2B, 3 R, 3 SBs; Sam Bohnert 1-3, 2B, RBI; Zaparzynski 1-2, 2B, RBI; Holleran 1-3, 2B, RBI; Jason Dehaven 2-2, R. Top Wellsboro hitters: Dan Saniga 1-2, 2B; Reese 2-3, R; Owlett 1-1, 2B, RBI; Connor Coolidge 1-2, 2B, 2 RBI.
Records: Wellsboro 12-5. Mansfield 7-13.
Milton 10, Montoursville 2
Montoursville001 100 0-2 6 2
Milton800 200 x-10 12 1
Null, Teigan Herlehy (1) and Young. Cody Shaffer and Chappell. W-Shaffer, (5-2). L-Null, (2-2).
Top Montoursville hitters: Alec Rothrock 2-4; Young 1-2, RBI; Jacob Jones 2-3, RBI. Top Milton hitters: Adames 2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R; Chappell 3-4, HR, 2 RBI; Taylor Porter 2-3, RBI, R; Bordner 2-4, RBI.
Records: Milton 15-4. Montoursville 11-8.