LEWISBURG - As Josh Brubaker's sixth-inning foul pop drifted toward the fence, Montgomery first baseman Jake Miller shoved aside the base umpire while giving chase. The fence was inches away, but Miller did not care and he made a spectacular catch.
Montgomery was doing whatever it took to reach the state championship. Nothing and nobody was getting in its way. An inning later Garrett Shnyder put the finishing touches on a brilliant two-hit shutout and triumphantly raised his arms high. What once seemed like a far-fetched dream had become reality.
Montgomery is the state's best Eastern Region Class A team. Montgomery is headed to the state final.
Shnyder threw his third consecutive postseason shutout, Alex Worthington hit a crucial RBI double and Cameron McHenry added a big two-run single as Montgomery blanked Lancaster County Christian, 5-0 Monday at Bucknell University's Depew Field and captured the Eastern Region championship.
"To be here now, it almost doesn't even feel real. I don't even know what to say when guys are telling me you're going to the state final," Shnyder said. "It just doesn't seem like it would be possible but we've battled and we've fought and we just keep winning."
"It was a dream and we have finally accomplished it," Worthington said. "Now we just have to get one more win."
Up next is District 6 champion Bishop McCort Friday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State. Bishop McCort routed Elk County Catholic, 17-0 in the West Regional final.
The Red Raiders (21-2) had never won a state playoff game before this season but have cruised through the last two rounds, outscoring District 3's top two finishers, 15-0. Going back to the district final, Montgomery has outscored four straight opponents, 21-1.
"It is a dream come true and that's what we've been working at since we started three years ago," Montgomery coach Tom Persing said. "I said I wanted to win a district championship and win a game in states. I told the players then, 'let's do something we haven't done before in this town,' and it's all coming together now."
Shnyder and Jensen King were locked in a scoreless pitcher's duel for four innings. But while LCC (19-3) did not touch Shnyder, Montgomery kept threatening against King, leaving five runners on base through the first three innings.
Worthington was inches from delivering a huge hit third-inning hit with the bases loaded, but he would not be denied the next time up. After Corey Kriner led off the fifth inning with a misplayed pop-up that became a single, Worthington pounced on King's first pitch and crushed it toward the right-center field gap. Kriner easily scored, Worthington had a double and he took third on an ensuing throwing error.
A batter later senior Kyle Russell dropped a beautiful safety squeeze and scored Worthington, making it 2-0. And with Shnyder as locked in as he has been, a 2-0 lead might as well have been 12-0.
"During the season our bats weren't coming around. We were just relying on pitching and defense but now our bats have come around and we're hitting the ball," Worthington said. "It's hard work and fundamentals."
Shnyder (9-1) pitched 5 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball before King hit a one-out bloop single in the sixth. He overpowered LCC with his fastball, curveball and changeup and walked none. Shnyder struck out nine and let just one runner reach base via error in the first five innings.
LCC, which had come from behind to win three straight playoff games, loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh but that only seemed to get Shnyder, who has thrown 20 straight scoreless playoff innings, more amped up. The right-hander struck out Rob McCain on three pitches, blowing him away with a fastball on the outside corner for the final strike as hundreds of red-clad Montgomery fans cheered.
"It was hot out and it feels good. My arm felt real loose and I was using all my pitches effectively," Shnyder said. "I was hitting my spots and letting the guys behind me make the plays."
Montgomery was visitor for the first time this postseason, but took the approach that it was down 2-0 in the seventh instead of ahead. A team that has won six games in its final at-bat excelled again in the seventh, scoring three times. Thomas Goetz sparked the rally with a lead-off walk before Kriner dropped another outstanding bunt, moving him to second. Worthington was intentionally walked and Russell lofted a flyball that was misplayed, allowing Goetz to score the third run.
Three batters later, McHenry delivered his third clutch hit in as many state playoff games, driving a two-run single to center field and making it 5-0.
"Ever since my dad worked with me at home and told me to change my feet I've been driving the ball a lot. I'm not dancing in the box," said McHenry, who has five RBI in three state playoff games. "I want to bat as soon as I'm done with my first at-bat. I want get right back in there and take a couple more swings."
"You never want to stop the offense and we didn't. We just kept our foot on the gas, kept going and great things are going to happen for this team if we keep doing that," third baseman John Goetz said. "When you're on the field you have to turn it on and this team has turned it on from the first pitch to the last out."
The defense again was excellent. Miller made a few nice plays at first while the infield gobbled up everything hit to it and McHenry made a nice hustling catch in center field.
It felt like all of Montgomery was there to witness it too. Fans filled bleachers on both baselines as well as behind home. The stream of Montgomery fans continued down the right and left-field lines and included two dressed in red full-body morph suits on a day when temperatures hovered near 90 degrees.
"That's dedication," Goetz said. "This is special."
So is the team.