BLOOMSBURG - Two years ago, Alex Worthington was just another student at Montgomery grinding his way through high school.
Monday night, as dark clouds loomed overhead throughout the entire contest, Worthington became something special.
Without the insurance of having ace Garrett Shnyder available for even a relief inning, Worthington overcame leadoff batters reaching in five of eight innings, a late rally to send the game into extra innings and tossed over 130 pitches to help Montgomery get past District 11 champion Pius X with a 2-1 victory in eight innings to open the PIAA?Class A baseball playoffs.
"It was just a matter of getting in front in the count and keeping my pitches down," Worthington said.
Worthington began to show signs of fatigue late in the contest, missing with his curve ball and losing speed on his fastball. He shook off the tiredness, though, getting through the eighth inning with two strikeouts and a pop out to left field.
Montgomery coach Tom Persing, seeing the fatigue on Worthington's face, told him he would not have to throw another pitch.
"I told him he wouldn't have to pitch the ninth and the offense would come through," Persing said. "Every win from here on out is a good win."
His words proved to be prophetic as the Red Raiders turned a fielder's choice and three walks into a victory.
Cam McHenry, after giving Montgomery a 1-0 lead with a triple in the sixth, reached safely after a failed attempt to convert a double play.
Patience was the theme the rest of the way as two consecutive walks loaded the bases. Thomas Goetz then waited for a strike before taking a looping curve ball for the game-winning walk.
Kyle Shnyder, who ripped a triple down the right field line in the first inning but was stranded when a strikeout ended the inning, opened the sixth with a four-pitch walk, his second of the game.
The long infield grass made bunting Shnyder over to second and easy decision, with McHenry's triple on the next at-bat scoring Shnyder and giving the Red Raiders a 1-0 advantage.
"We know we can score, we know we can hit the ball," Worthington said.
A leadoff walk to open the seventh put Pius X in a similar situation, bunting over the runner two pitches into the next at-bat.
Worthington used one of his nine strikeouts of the day to get the second out and then got the next batter to an 0-2 count before a game-changing single was hit into right field.
"I told him he was doing fine," Persing said. "I told him he was doing everything he can to win. He just needed to stay focused and good things would come."
Worthington continually fought his way out of jams, displaying the kind of focus one would expect from a grizzled veteran, not a second-year pitcher starting in the state playoffs.
"I've been working hard a lot since last year," Worthington said. "It's a matter of listening to coaches and players and staying focused."
Pius X 000 000 10-1 7 1
Montgomery 000 001 01-2 3 0
Joe Dalessandro, Gabe Solano (8) and Chris Candelaria. Alex Worthington and Kyle Russell. WP-Worthington. LP-Dalessandro.
Top Pius X hitters: Dalessandro 3-3. Top Montgomery hitters: Kyle Shnyder 3B, run.
Records: Montgomery 19-2. Pius X 14-9.