As soon as the ball hit the dirt, Loyalsock's Jimmy Webb was halfway down the third baseline and headed for home. By the time South Williamsport catcher Derek Wisner tracked it down, Webb had already scored the Lancers' first run of the season.
It was not unlike the game's final play, which also saw Webb steal home, helping Loyalsock (1-0) complete a 10-0 mercy-rule shutout over South Williamsport (1-1) in five innings.
That's just how things went for Loyalsock's junior right fielder who reached base in each of his four plate appearances, stole six bases and scored four runs. He was the catalyst for a potent Lancer offense against one of the district's best pitchers, South's Billy Rummings.
Loyalsock shortstop Kyle Datres makes a diving catch on a line drive against South Williamsport on Wednesday in the first inning at Loyalsock. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com
"Pitchers usually have the advantage early on, especially Rummings," Loyalsock head coach Jeremy Eck said. "For the team to put runs on the board immediately was big for us.
"We respect Billy and know what he can do, so we are extremely happy with the way our offense showed up."
Though he got off to a rough start, Rummings quickly calmed down, and helped his team play close with the Lancers for a while by allowing just one run through the game's next two innings. He seemed to be the great equalizer for the Mounties, who are one of the area's youngest teams after losing six starters from last season. In his 4 2/3 innings on the mound, the senior struck out 7 of the 20 batters he faced and allowed just four hits against one of the better Class AA teams in the state
However, Rummings' pitch count soared early during a 33-pitch first inning. His pitch count continued to grow as South's defense gave Loyalsock extra outs.
After committing three fourth-inning errors, the Mounties allowed Loyalsock to break the game open by batting around and adding five runs for an 8-0 lead. That brought an end to Rummings' day.
"That's what we preached to the guys all week - getting his pitch count up," Eck said. "Because after him there are some guys who are more inexperienced and inconsistent that we figured would give us a good shot. We just needed to get him off the mound."
After establishing their lead, the Lancers relied on the arms of Luke Glavin and Kyle Datres to do the rest. Glavin, who pitched the game's first four innings, struck out eight. He allowed just two hits, both singles, and two walks. When Datres came in to relieve him, the game was pretty well under control.
"Sending Luke Glavin out on the mound, and knowing that we have Kyle Datres in our back pocket, it makes you feel pretty comfortable," Eck said.
South Williamsport coach Shawn Finn, said that he wasn't surprised to see his young team struggle against one of the best pitching duos in the state, but made it clear that he wouldn't stand for too many more losses like this one.
"A lot of these guys have never played in a game of this magnitude, against a cross-town rival and defending state champions, so they just aren't used to this kind of thing," he said. "But they need to start adjusting or I need to make some changes."
South Williamsport 000 00 - 0 2 3
Loyalsock 201 52 - 10 5 1
Billy Rummings, Anthony Caruso (4), Nick Mistretta (4) and Derek Wisner. Luke Glavin, Kyle Datres (5) and Evan Moore. W - Glavin. L - Rummings.
Top South hitters: Riley Thomas 2B, BB; Bryce Merril 1-2, BB. Top Loyalsock hitters: Jimmy Webb 1-4, 2BB, 6SB, 4); Kyle Datres 3BB, 3SB, 2R; Bailey Young 1-3, BB, SB, RBI; Nick DiFrancesco 2B, SB, 2R.