They have competed against each other since they first started playing baseball. They have played in backyards, on streets, on empty fields and in front of big crowds.
Thursday night at Bowman Field, Loyalsock and Montoursville might have played their best game yet. And as the years pass, and future Lancers and Warriors collide, they will have a tough time topping what both teams did last night.
Kyle Datres threw a complete-game three-hitter and Robbie Klein drew a walk-off bases-loaded walk as Loyalsock edged Montoursville, 2-1, in the District 4 Class AA semifinals in front of a huge crowd. The Lancers (18-2) earned a spot in both tonight's championship against Hughesville and the state tournament while Montoursville finished 16-5.
"It was awesome," Klein said. "It was a classic game and that's what Loyalsock vs. Montoursville is all about."
"That's what baseball is all about," Montoursville coach Travis Wurster said. "The towns deserve a game like that. That was a great ball game."
Datres and Andrew Null staged a terrific pitching duel and matched each other pitch for pitch for nearly six innings before Bailey Young delivered a clutch, two-out, two-strike sixth-inning single to put Loyalsock up 1-0.
Datres had a one-hitter and 11 strikeouts through six innings so that 1-0 lead looked like a 100-run lead. Montoursville, though, fought back as Aaron Cole walked, Frank Dyer singled and Pierce Ranck delivered a huge two-out RBI single that tied the game 1-1. Null nearly put Montoursville ahead but right fielder Jimmy Webb made a sensational diving catch on a soft liner that saved two runs and possibly the game.
"They battled and showed what Montoursville baseball is all about and what we've always been about and what we'll continue to be about because of those guys," Wurster said.
"We have all the respect in the world for Montoursville," Loyalsock coach Jeremy Eck said. "Growing up and playing there I know what Travis and them are all about. We knew we had to be prepared and both teams battled hard all night."
Unfazed by the comeback, Luke Glavin drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the seventh before a throwing error and a Phil Krizan bunt moved pinch-runner Nate Krizan to third. Montoursville intentionally walked Datres (2 for 3) and Webb, setting the stage for Klein, who Eck labeled his team's MVP this season.
Klein has delivered a series of big hits this year but helped his team this time by not swinging. He worked a 2-0 count and, after taking a strike, took two more balls to score Nate Krizan and give the defending champions a thrilling win.
"It was the biggest walk of my life," Klein said. "We knew we just had to fight. They fight and we just had to fight back."
Datres and Null fought each other all night, showing why they are two of the district's best pitchers. Datres has been up and down a year after going 9-0 but continued to shine when the lights are brightest, throwing 5 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball and striking out 12. Null was outstanding too, allowing three hits in six innings and striking out four.
The two pitchers were so good that only three runners on both teams reached second base over the first five innings. No hitter reached third during that time when it appeared one run would be enough to win the game.
"Andrew Null deserves a spot like that under the lights at Bowman against the best pitcher around here on his best day," Wurster said. "He deserves that as much hard work as he has put into it."
"You saw two of the better players in the state tonight going head to head and it's good to see," Eck said. "It's good for the area and good for the teams."
Montoursville000 000 1-1 3 1
Loyalsock000 001 1-2 3 1
Andrew Null, Pierce Ranck (7) and Cameron Ott. Kyle Datres and Bailey Young. W-Datres, (2-1). L-Null, (6-3).
Top Montoursville hitters: Quinton Kuntz 1-2; Ranck 1-4, RBI. Top Loyalsock hitters: Datres 2-3; Young 1-3, RBI.
Records: Loyalsock 18-2. Montoursville 16-5.