Ethan Moore played the ball perfect, but still paid a price.
Nic Ampietro's fourth-inning grounder took a nasty hop and drilled Moore in the chin while eliciting a collective cringe from a large crowd at Bloomsburg University Tuesday afternoon. Loyalsock coaches immediately ran out to check on Moore, but the senior captain immediately sent them away. He was annoyed they even came out.
Nothing can keep this senior down.
True to form, Moore stayed in the game and continued playing well. He finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs, played strong defense, made the game's last three outs and helped Loyalsock thump Salisbury 8-1 to capture the Class AA Eastern Region championship. It was a stellar performance but it also was just Moore being Moore.
"Ethan is stepping up huge. He's worked his entire life for this and he's one of the hardest workers you'll ever see," Loyalsock coach Jeremy Eck said. "I know he wants a chance to play at the next level and that's what it takes. You have to come out and have that workman's mentality and he does."
Moore is Loyalsock's only senior starter. Other players will get another shot at reaching a state final but this was Moore's last. He has made the most of it, too, playing outstanding defense and delivering a series of timely hits. The three-year starter has four hits and four RBIs in his last two games and is a big reason Loyalsock (21-3) is playing Beaver in Friday's state championship at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"The last couple games he's really turned it on," second baseman Phil Krizan said. "He's really showing his senior leadership in the dugout and on the field. He's stepping up in big spots for us."
"It just shows that anything is possible if you work together," Moore said. "That's what we're doing and it's a great feeling. I'm so proud to be on this team."
His teammates feel the same way about him. Moore has been a rock all season, playing outstanding defense at two positions, providing strong pitching and adding pop from the clean-up position. Whatever Eck and the coaches have asked from Moore, he has delivered.
That has been especially true the last two games. Loyalsock trailed Delone Catholic 5-1 in the state quarterfinals and was still down a run when that game was suspended after three innings. It resumed two days later and Moore provided the decisive hit. The senior crushed a long two-run, fifth-inning triple and scored on the ensuing throwing error while putting Loyalsock up 7-5 and paving the way for a 9-5 win.
Monday against Salisbury, Moore helped set the tone, delivering a first-inning RBI single. Three innings later he walloped an RBI double to the deepest part of center field, nearly 370 feet, and gave Loyalsock a 6-0 lead. Even the two times Moore was retired Monday, he stung the ball against a dominant pitching staff that had three starters featuring sub 2.00 ERAs.
"My swing feels great right now," Moore said. "We're peaking at the right time."
"He's leading us right now and he's doing a great job being a senior captain," Eck said. "He's the only senior that starts and he's doing an absolutely great job."
Moore has embraced the leadership role. He is one of the team's elder statesemen and has been a source of calm through a turbulent season. The Lancers have had plenty of injuries and adversity to overcome and Moore has been like a steely captain, helping keep the ship afloat.
Moore leads through his words and his play. Injuries decimated the pitching staff at times during the regular season and Moore rushed to fill the void. He won four straight starts and threw 26 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. He allowed just one run all season and earned the win by throwing a complete-game when Loyalsock captured its fifth straight HAC-II championship against eventual district champion Hughesville.
Defensively, Moore has shined at shortstop and third base, making a seamless transition game-to-game and sometime inning-to-inning. The player who wants to play at the next level has taken his performance to another level.
"Ethan has been so big for us and has come through so much," right fielder Jimmy Webb said. "Even when he doesn't get a hit, he's always in the dugout saying, 'Let's go guys.'"
Like many Lancers, Moore has fought through a painful injury. A back ailment threatened to derail his season late in the year. Instead, Moore kept playing, kept fighting and now is living a dream. Not surprisingly, Moore quickly was back on his feet after taking the vicious grounder to the chin Monday. Three innings later, he recorded the final three outs as Loyalsock earned its second state championship appearance since 2008.
He might get knocked down at times, but nothing has knocked Moore out. He has become a perfect reflection of the team he captains.
"E does a really good job keeping us in line. He's so huge for us," Webb said. "He has been a great leader for us."