Nearly every Sunday since March, Montoursville's Dalton Cristini has arrived at Giles Field and taken extra batting practice. He often was one of the first there and the last leaving. All this despite not being a starter.
Cristini did not whine about his situation. He simply worked his way into a new one. Cristini earned his first start Wednesday against Selinsgrove and showed no intention of leaving the lineup. Cristini went 3 for 4, belted a triple, two doubles, including a walk-off, drove in three runs and scored two more while helping Montoursville rout Selinsgrove, 14-4 in five innings.
Cristini, providing tremendous pop from the No. 8 spot, was part of a powerful 15-hit offense. That, combined with Andrew Null throwing four hitless innings, helped the Warriors (8-1, 7-1 HAC-I) win their eighth straight and open a 13-0 fourth-inning lead.
"Dalton is a very fast player and if he gets his pitch he drives it. He's a very strong kid and he hits the ball well," Montoursville coach Travis Wurster said. "He's worked hard all season and put in that extra work and it showed today. He's a kid in the eight spot that on a lot of teams could be a No. 1 or 2 hitter."
"I was feeling pretty good," Cristini said. "I didn't do well my first at-bat, but after that I was really feeling it."
Cristini struck out his first time up, but Wurster showed confidence in him the next time, having Frank Dyer (2 for 3) drop a sacrifice bunt that put runners in scoring position. Cristini rewarded Wurster by driving a two-run double off the right-field fence that ignited a seven-run rally and put Montoursville up 10-0. An inning later, Cristini smashed a two-run double into the left-center field gap, sparking a three-run rally.
After Selinsgrove scored four fifth-inning runs, Cristini ended the game, hitting a walk-off double to deep left-center that scored Ryan Mondell.
"We've put a lot of effort into our approach at the plate and what pitches we're looking for," Cristini said. "That's a big thing we've done this year that we may not have done as much as last year."
Montoursville struggled offensively last year but is averaging 10 runs per game during its winning streak. Those approaches are a big reason why. The Warriors are being selective and rarely swung at pitches out of the strike zone yesterday. It has been that way in all their high-scoring games and helped trigger a three-run first-inning rally.
Pierce Ranck (2 for 2, 2 walks, 2 RBIs, 3 runs) drew a six-pitch leadoff walk and scored after Cameron Ott (3 for 4, double, 4 RBIs, 2 runs) worked a 2-1 count and then smashed a RBI triple. Mondell's RBI single capped the three-run rally.
Mondell made a spectacular diving play at third base in the second inning, making a great throw from his knees and he went 3 for 4 while never swinging at a bad pitch.
"We worked on our plate approach a lot. That's what we've been focusing on and that's what coach has been preaching to us," Mondell said. "The team is hitting well so that's what is important. Our whole team can hit, 1-9 and then off the bench, too."
"That's one of the philosophies we really push with our hitters is not taking pitches but just getting a good pitch to hit. If it's the first pitch of the at-bat, great, if it's the eighth pitch of the at-bat, great," Wurster said. "When we do that, and our kids starting to see it, we score runs."
Null does not let up runs. The junior hit a two-run home run, his fifth this season, in the third inning but was even more impressive on the mound. Null threw four hitless, scoreless innings for the second time this season, struck out seven and threw only 53 pitches, crucial for a team that plays its next 11 games in 17 days.
Selinsgrove never advanced a runner past first base against Null and a 3-0 first-inning lead looked more like 13. Every Montoursville player either delivered a hit, drove in a run or scored a run. Curtis Miller served as a second leadoff hitter at the bottom of the lineup, scoring twice, and those last three hitters went a combined 6 for 9 with four runs.
Selinsgrove 000 04-4 4 2
Montoursville 307 31-14 15 1
Colby Crissinger, Zack Hendricks (4) and Aaron Shaffer. Andrew Null, Dylan Fontenot (5) and Cameron Ott. W-Null, (4-1). L-Crissinger.
Top Montoursville hitters: Pierce Ranck 2-2, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R; Ott 3-4, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI, 2 R; Null 2-run HR; Ryan Mondell 3-4, RBI, 2 R; Frank Dyer 2-3; Dalton Cristini 3-4, 3B, 2 2Bs, 3 RBI, 2 R.
Records: Montoursville 8-1, 7-1 HAC-I. Selinsgrove 3-9, 3-6.