MUNCY - The winning runners stood at first and third base as the Muncy players standing in the dugout made more noise than at any other point. Sullivan County pitcher Zach Meyer stood alone on the mound, pressure mounting around him, but holding fate in his right hand.
He was in his comfort zone.
Meyer is no stranger to pressure, excelling on historic Sullivan County basketball teams the last two seasons while helping lead the baseball team to its best season ever last year. Meyer does not shrink from pressure. He embraces it.
Derek Farrell of Sullivan County is congratulated by the third base coach after hitting a home run in the third inning Thursday at Muncy. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
He did so again Thursday. Meyer stranded those runners, inducing a game-ending fielder's choice and finished a three-hit complete-game that led Sullivan to a big 2-1 win. Meyer struck out seven and received a big lift from Derek Farrell who hit a third-inning home run that sparked a two-run rally.
"I just love baseball. Every game is fun for me," Meyer said. "I love intense games like this. Playing basketball gets you ready for this and I just love games against tough teams and tough competitors."
Meyer has proven that throughout his scholastic career in multiple sports. Yesterday he was especially impressive, considering Muncy (2-2) was a day removed from scoring 17 runs in a four-inning win over Benton. Muncy pitcher Kenny Koch was dominant too, allowing just three hits and striking out 15 in 6 2/3 innings.
Meyer had to be nearly perfect and he was. The senior right-hander stifled the Indians, retiring the first nine batters he faced, striking out seven, throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings and throwing only 83 pitches.
Meyer is a true pitcher's pitcher. He consistently works ahead in the count and is brilliant at spotting his pitches. In his last two games against Muncy, including last year's District 4 Class A quarterfinal, Meyer has allowed just 10 hits and three runs while earning complete-game wins each time.
"Zach has worked so hard since he was little. He's had excellent coaching from different people ever since he was little and he's right there all the time," Sullivan coach Walter Tubach said. "Whatever I tell him to throw - high, low, inside, outside - it's always there."
Meyer delivered a clutch performance at the perfect time. The Griffins (1-3) have a good core back from last year's team that was an out from beating state finalist Montgomery in the district semifinals. Still, had it lost Thursday, Sullivan might have had a difficult climb back toward the playoffs.
And as great as Meyer was, Sullivan also played outstanding behind him. The defense played an error-less game and shortstop Barry Heinrich turned two double plays while second baseman Sean Flannery robbed Dalton Smith of a first-inning single. T.J. Moyle led off the bottom of the seventh with a double and, following a hit batter and a walk, scored on Jeff Scott's fielder's choice.
Levi Myers than hit a hard two-out grounder that Meyer reached out and touched as it went up the middle. Heinrich perfectly read the play, made the stop left of the second-base bag and stepped on it to clinch the win.
"Our defense played great. They made all the plays," Meyer said. "The experience helps. In basketball there are so many people there so you know how to calm yourself. There's not as many people here for baseball but you know how to work it and how to stay calm."
Koch was spectacular too, allowing only an earned run and striking out the side three times. The sophomore mixed a potent fastball with a knee-buckling curve and was virtually untouchable following Farrell's home run.
It was the second straight hard-luck loss Koch absorbed. He has overpowered two good teams, allowing only five hits and striking out 25 in 11 innings but Muncy has scored just once each time.
"Kenny deserved a better fate. He was pretty much dominant out there," Muncy coach Chris Persing said. "It's a shame because Kenny pitched such a good game. They made the plays behind him (Meyer) but we have to do a better job of getting guys on base and putting pressure on him. We just didn't do it until the end."
Koch took a no-hitter into the third inning and had struck out five before Farrell launched a deep drive over the left-field fence. The team's No. 9 hitter went 2-for-3 and gave Sullivan the spark it needed, the belief it needed against a standout pitcher. Lucas Hatton drew a two-out walk two batters later, stole second and scored the second run on an error.
"Derek had been struggling a little bit at the plate and it was good for him and all the guys because they knew then that we could score some runs and we had a lot of time to continue on," Tubach said. "Our boys work so hard and they did a great job hanging in there."
Smith broke up Meyer's perfect game in the fourth inning but Heinrich ended the brief threat two pitches later, fielding a grounder and starting a double play. He turned another double play when Muncy put a runner on in the sixth with one out.
"They made all the plays behind Zach," Persing said. "He let his defense work and his defense worked today."
Sullivan002 000 0-2 3 0
Muncy000 000 1-1 3 1
Kenny Koch, Skylar Ebner (7) and Dawson Fox. Zach Meyer and Kelby Mullen. W-Meyer, (1-2). L-Koch, (0-2).
Top Sullivan hitters: Derek Farrell 2-3, HR, RBI; Lucas Hatton 1-3, R. Top Muncy hitters: Jeff Scott 1-3, 2B, RBI; T.J. Moyle 1-3, 2B, R.
Records: Sullivan 1-3, 1-3 HAC-III. Muncy 2-2, 2-2.