BLOOMSBURG - A smile flashed across Colton Hock's face as he looked back toward Bloomsburg catcher Cole Streater. The same blustery wind which made the uniform on his 6-foot, 4-inch body whip around like a flag on a flag pole, had just saved him a home run off the bat of Loyalsock's Kyle Datres in the fifth inning.
It was the closest thing to a mistake the Panthers' senior pitcher made during Monday's game. The Stanford-bound right-hander allowed the defending PIAA champion Lancers just two hits and struck out 11 in a 6-1 win as the Lancers again made crucial mistakes in a key early-season game.
With as many as seven radar guns in the hands of professional scouts pointed at him for every pitch of his third start of the season, Hock was brilliant. He topped out at 94 mph with his fastball, consistently sat from 88-91, and defeated Loyalsock by challenging it with fastballs it couldn't seem to square up.
It was Loyalsock's second consecutive loss, and the Lancers have scored just three runs in those two losses after scoring 41 runs over its first three games of the season.
"We struggled today because Colton was just throwing gas," Loyalsock outfielder Jimmy Webb said. "With the way Colton was throwing, any chance we got today we needed to take advantage of."
Hock's presence and performance only further exacerbated the problems which led to Loyalsock dropping its first game of the season last week to Hughesville. Of the two hits for Loyalsock, one was a swinging bunt in the second inning which Datres beat out, and the other came to lead off the seventh inning when the Lancers were already trailing 6-0.
Loyalsock had just one base runner over the final four innings - Joey Balawajder doubled in the seventh - and Hock sat down 12 of the final 13 batters he faced for his third win of the short season.
"When you have a legit guy throwing in the low 90s and hitting his spots all day long, you have to have an approach, and we don't have an approach right now," Loyalsock head coach Jeremy Eck said. "I don't think he was too much for us. Colton Hock is definitely a great pitcher, but I don't want to give him too much credit, either. He was pumping that fastball in there. He was beating us with straight fastballs. He was saying here you go, man to man, either you're going to beat me, or I'm going to beat you. We've got the be able to hit a fastball."
Eight of Hock's 11 strikeouts came on fastballs yesterday. The right-hander now has 32 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched this year against just one walk.
He threw 68 of his 115 pitches (59 percent) for strikes.
"It is a big win for us and a big win for our program," Bloomsburg head coach Keith Thrush said. "We've been battling with Loyalsock for years and we haven't gotten over the hump with them. I told the guys it's only one game in the season, though, and Wednesday we have Montoursville, so it's right back on the gas."
Sock fell behind in the second inning when it handed the Panthers a pair of unearned runs. With runners at the corners and two outs, Bloomsburg's Coty Kashner attempted to steal second base. The throw from the catcher was wide to the shortstop side and went in to center field allowing courtesy runner Josh Mumaw to score easily.
Tyson Thrush then put together a brilliant 11-pitch at-bat against Loyalsock starter Luke Glavin before blooping a fly ball to shallow left field which Datres couldn't quite make an over-the-shoulder catch on. Kashner scored giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead which must have seemed like 20-0 when Hock began pumping in 94 mph fastballs in the third inning.
"We knew we had to do the little things, and that's what it came down to," Hock said. "We put some pressure on them, more so than they did on us and that's what won us the game."
Bloomsburg put even more pressure on Loyalsock in the fifth inning when it hit just one ball out of the infield - a flyout on a tremendous diving catch by Webb - but managed to score four runs, all with two outs.
Sam Miller reached on an infield single on a slow roller to third. Ricky Klingerman then beat out a bunt single, and Hock reached on an infield single on another slow roller to third. Eck argued the Hock's hit actually hit Hock in the batter's box, which Hock said after the game it did, but neither umpire called or signaled foul ball. Hock's infield single allowed a run to score.
Streater then reached on a fielding error on a routine ground ball which allowed a run to score, and when the ball rolled out of play, another run scored for the Panthers. Webb came on to relieve Glavin (4 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 3 earned runs) and got a pop-up on the infield against Evan Ball. But the wind pushed the baseball back toward home plate and Datres saw the ball bounce out of his glove as he charged in past the mound on the first-base side to try and make the catch.
The four errors were very uncharacteristic of a team which returned so many starters from last year's state title team.
"There's concern because the guys we're used to throwing out there are gamers and they're just not getting it done," Eck said. "You stand here and scratch your head and wonder why aren't we fielding those ground balls, why aren't we doing this or why aren't we doing that? There's some question marks there. Our coaching staff is wondering are we satisfied? Are we satisfied with what we've done in the past? Are we satisfied with one state title and riding off into the sunset? That's a concern."
"We played a whole seven innings," Hock said. "And I know Loyalsock has a history of playing a whole seven innings. It's never over with them. And the difference was we did the same thing. We were motivated the whole game. It was really fun to be a part of."
Loyalsock 000 000 1 - 1 2 4
Bloomsburg 020 040 x - 6 7 3
Luke Glavin, Jimmy Webb (5) and Evan Moore. Colton Hock and Cole Streater. W - Hock. L - Glavin.
Top Loyalsock hitters: Kyle Datres, 1-3; Joey Balawajder, 1-3, double, run; Tommy Baggett, RBI. Top Bloomsburg hitters: Sam Miller, 1-4, run; Ricky Klingerman, 1-3, run; Colton Hock, 2-2, RBI; Evan Ball, 1-2; Tyson Thrushm 1-3, RBI.
Pitchers' lines: Loyalsock - Luke Glavin (4 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 6 runs, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks); Jimmy Webb (1 1/3 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K). Bloomsburg - Colton Hock (7 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks).
With runners in scoring position: Loyalsock 0-6; Bloomsburg 3-9.
Runners left on base-in scoring position: Loyalsock 3-2; Bloomsburg 5-4.
Pitches-strikes: Loyalsock - Luke Glavin, 93-58; Jimmy Webb, 17-11. Bloomsburg - Colton Hock, 115-68.
Batters faced-first pitch strikes: Loyalsock - Luke Glavin, 23-16; Jimmy Webb, 6-3. Bloomsburg - Colton Hock, 25-12.
Records: Loyalsock (3-2); Bloomsburg (5-0).