STATE COLLEGE - They met Friday morning in an empty gym, championship banners surrounding them. It was quiet enough that the Loyalsock baseball players could nearly hear past members of those championship teams encouraging them to seize the moment.
Several hours later, when both the noise and the pressure both were so high, they did.
Because of that, those players and coaches now share a bond that can never be broken. Wherever they go, whatever they do, they will always be joined together. Now and forever, 2013 Loyalsock will be Pennsylvania's best Class AA baseball team.
Bailey Young hit a one-out, walk-off single, scoring pinch-runner Caleb Robbins from second Friday at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park as Loyalsock edged Beaver, 5-4 and captured the Class AA state championship. Young answered Nick Hineman who had tied the game with a two-out single in the top of the seventh and the junior designated hitter put an exclamation point on one of the best state finals in Class AA history.
"I told them this morning that if we win this one we walk together forever," Loyalsock coach Jeremy Eck said. "I asked them how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be a good team that got to the state final or do you want to hang on that wall for the rest of your life? They showed us what it's all about."
"I'm speechless. I'm stuttering right now," lone senior starter Ethan Moore said. "It's been a long road. Just to be here looking at this field, I keep asking all the players if we just won states. It's unbelievable."
Loyalsock won the program's second state title and first since 2008. How the Lancers (22-3) won it always will stand out. The Lancers overcame a series of injuries, adversity and other obstacles. They lost before they could win, dropping the district final to Hughesville before coming back with a vengeance in states. Loyalsock defeated four straight district champions who were a combined 81-9 and yesterday beat a team that had yet to allow a run in three state playoff games.
Hineman hitting the game-tying single when Loyalsock was one out from victory was one last hurdle to overcome. Like they did so many times before, the Lancers again found a way.
"I don't think we caught a break all year. We had injuries everywhere. We had some losses from the team but we pulled through and came together as one," third baseman Tommy Baggett said. "Everyone steps up at the right time. Whoever is up there, they step up and get the job done."
Unfazed, Loyalsock stayed upbeat and Robbie Klein (1 for 3) ignited the game-winning rally when he was hit by a pitch. Robbins ran for Klein and moved to second on Moore's well-placed bunt before Baggett (1 for 2, 2 RBIs) was intentionally walked.
"In the bottom of the seventh he (Eck) said if Robbie gets on you have one job and thats to get the bunt down," Moore said. "I said, damn right. I'm getting that bunt down, we're moving him over and we're winning this game."
Moore was right. Young fell behind Beaver ace Austin Ross but kept battling and fouled off three pitches. The Radford-bound pitcher challenged him next with a fastball on the corner, but Klein shortened his swing and drove a hard grounder past a diving Hineman and into right field. Robbins furiously sprinted as the Loyalsock fans screamed down the first-base line and Eck waved him around third.
The throw from right field was cut off and before the relay came home, Robbins slid home and into immortality as Loyalsock captured the state's biggest prize.
"Once I saw the throw come in I looked back at home and I saw him score. The first person I saw coming at me was Kyle Datres. He told me I was going to get a hit that at-bat and it gave me confidence," Young said. "This is amazing. You can't explain the feeling after a state championship win."
"What an unbelievable way to end the season," Robbins said. "I was scoring no matter what. It was pure adrenaline. As soon as I touched third base I was running as fast as I could. I had to do it for our town and for my family and my pop. I can't find the words to explain it. It was so awesome."
The hit of Young's life and the run of Robbins' life made a winner of Datres who threw a complete game and allowed only two earned runs while striking out six. After Hineman tied it, Datres fought back and induced an inning-ending flyout to Jimmy Webb who earlier in the seventh, dove over the right-field wall in foul territory going for a catch.
Loyalsock was knocked down, but not out and came off the ropes to deliver the final blow.
"It really is a dream come true," said Eck, while holding young son Elijah who received a kiss from his father after Eck finished handing out gold medals "Every one of these guys has so much heart and they are all gamers."
Datres and Webb were instrumental to Loyalsock taking its first lead in the third inning. After Luke Glavin tied it 1-1 with a two-out, second-inning single, Datres hit a leadoff double in the third and moved to third on a throwing error. Webb followed with an RBI double to right-center and scored on Baggett's sacrifice fly.
Beaver (20-4) tied it at 3-3 with two fourth-inning runs but Loyalsock regained the lead in the fifth when Baggett hit a one-out RBI single and scored Klein, who had hit a single before Moore reached on an error. The Lancers took good approaches against Ross (10-2), who had shut out three straight opponents, and delivered six hits while striking out only four times.
Young's final at-bat epitomized everything. Two weeks ago, Young hit a clutch sixth-inning RBI single in the district semifinals against Montoursville. This time, he delivered a hit that will forever be a part of Loyalsock lore. This moment, this season is now all theirs.
"It was a Cinderella story," Robbins said. "We're never going to forget this moment and this experience."
Beaver 100 200 1-4 9 2
Loyalsock 012 010 1-5 5 1
Austin Ross and Ben Herstine. Kyle Datres and Evan Moore. W-Datres, (5-1). L-Ross, 10-2.
Top Beaver hitters: Ross 2-4; Nick Hineman 2-4, 2 RBI, R; Jon Hill 1-3, R; Alex Rowse 1-3, RBI. Top Loyalsock hitters: Datres 2B, R; Jimmy Webb 2B, RBI, R; Tommy Baggett 1-2, 2 RBI; Bailey Young 1-3, GWRBI.
Records: Loyalsock 22-3. Beaver 20-4.