Many people in the area considered it a rebuilding year for the South Williamsport baseball team.
Those people, though, aren't members of South Williamsport's baseball team. To the players, rebuilding was just a term to motivate.
And with plenty of bulletin board material floating around the area, South Williamsport continued to respond. In Friday's Heartland Conference II showdown against Loyalsock, Billy Rummings gave a quality 98-pitch performance and Ryan Orgitano added a two-run home run to capture a 9-5 win over the defending league and district champions.
"Loyalsock is a rival and it's always a big game," Rummings said. "We were underdogs coming into this year and beating one of the best teams in the area feels great."
Despite posting four strikeouts through three innings, Rummings struggled with control in the early going. It took 51 pitches to get through the first three innings, with Loyalsock gaining a 3-0 advantage after the second.
Rummings, though, didn't seemed bothered by the early issues and faced only one batter over the minimum the rest of the way before being pulled at the conclusion of the fifth inning.
"Billy gutted out 90-some pitches. You don't want to do that this early in the season, but he started to pick it up after the second inning," South Williamsport coach Shawn Finn said. "His ball moves a lot and he's a good pitcher. Billy did his job today."
"Rummings did a heck of a job today," Loyalsock coach Jeremy Eck said. "He was really pumping it in there. We were swinging through straight fastballs. He challenged us and beat us today. All you can do is tip your cap."
The fact South Williamsport's (4-0, 4-0) offense responded to every Lancer run also helped.
After Rummings gave up three in the bottom of the second, South Williamsport responded with a three-run third. Justin Knee singled in Nick Mistretta, who was hit by a pitch to open the inning. Knee then stole a base, but the effort proved to be moot after Ryan Orgitano drove the fourth pitch of his at-bat over the center-field fence.
"It was key that the guys came right back, especially for Billy," Finn said. "It lit a fire in the dugout and everybody seemed to pick their game up."
The offense came through again after Loyalsock (3-1, 3-1) took advantage of a Zack Clark triple to open the bottom of the third. Clark eventually scored when Tommy Baggett put down a sacrifice bunt.
The young rebuilding Mounties responded in the next inning when Joe Balawajder and Rummings opened with back-to-back doubles.
"It's always important to come back," Rummings said. "We had big innings. They had big innings. You just have to work through it."
South Williamsport's persistence paid off when a series of walks and errors helped open a five-run sixth.
Balawajder opened the inning with a single - South Williamsport's lone hit of the inning. An error and hit batter followed, which forced a Loyalsock pitching change.
"It's frustrating. We understand we have a lot of baseball left, but I definitely feel like our guys are pressing a bit." Eck said. "The reputation is there. We returned a lot of guys. The pressure is on them and they are trying to win instead of just playing the game."
Ethan Moore hit a solo home run in the sixth, but Loyalsock wouldn't get any closer.
Cody Nelson replaced Rummings to open the sixth, fanning three batters and giving up the home run in two innings of work.
"Being 4-0 right now is a testament to this team's hard work," Finn said. "It's not a secret we lost some really good, quality players from last year. These guys wanted the challenge and have been playing great baseball to start the season."
South Williamsport 9, Loyalsock 5
South Williamsport003 105 0-9 6 2
Loyalsock031 001 0-5 4 2
Billy Rummings, Cody Nelson, and Justin Knee. Kyle Datres, Luke Glavin, Roger Wilson, and Bailey Young.
Top South Williamsport hitters: Ryan Orgitano 1-2, HR, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Joe Balawajder 2-4, 2B, 2 runs. Top Loyalsock hitters: Ethan Moore 2-2, HR, 2 runs, RBI; Zack Clark 3B, run.
Records: Loyalsock 3-1. South Williamsport 4-0. Next: South Williamsport at Warrior Run, Monday, 4:30 p.m. Central Columbia at Loyalsock, Monday, 4:30 p.m.