YORK - Backing away from the right-hand batter's box, West York's Brandon Wetzel spun toward his team's third-base line dugout as his head shook back and forth. As he placed his right foot back in the batter's box, he was still smiling.
What else was he going to do with Kyle Datres' curveball? Nobody else in the Bulldogs' lineup could hit it Thursday afternoon. Smiling and laughing at the big bender was about all they could do.
Datres, Loyalsock's ace pitcher, made the two-time defending PIAA Class AAA champions look like a Little League team at times. The curveball coupled with a high-80s fastball, was too much for West York to handle. Datres threw maybe the best game of his career, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning and settling for a one-hitter in the Lancers' 5-1 win at Sunset Lane Park.
Coming off a pair of lackluster losses in which Loyalsock didn't play much like the team who is the defending PIAA Class AA champion, the Lancers sure looked the part is a matchup of prepbaseballreport.com's top-ranked Class AAA and AA teams.
"Regardless of what happened (Thursday) we weren't going to hit the panic button," Loyalsock head coach Jeremy Eck said. "This gets the train moving a little bit in the right direction. And once we get going, we're going to be back to where we want to be. It's OK to lose a game once in a while. We don't want to lose games. We want to battle every at-bat. We want to make all the plays in the field, and we want to win every pitch. When you get tripped up a bit and guys start pressing, bad things happen. This is a phenomenal game for us."
The Lancers played yesterday like a team which was loose, free and easy from the pressure which seemed to burden it in Monday's loss to Bloomsburg and Stanford-bound pitcher Colton Hock. The defense, which had been such a letdown in the Bloomsburg game, was nearly flawless yesterday.
Tommy Baggett made a brilliant throw from deep third to preserve the no-hitter in the third inning. Wake Forest recruit Jimmy Webb made a tremendous diving catch in right-center field on a sinking line drive in the fifth inning to keep Datres' no-hitter intact. And catcher Evan Moore picked off the only baserunner Datres allowed in the first six innings with a stellar throw to Luke Glavin at first base.
And the offense did just enough to back the commanding presence Datres held on the mound. It wasn't the perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a great performance which could not possibly have come at a better time.
"Coming off of two losses we shouldn't have taken, we wondered what kind of team we are this year," said Lancers clean-up hitter Joey Balawajder who was 4 for 4 on Thursday. "We won a state championship last year and we wondered if that was enough. But we showed it's not enough. We want more."
"I got the loss against Hughesville (last week) and I didn't like that very much, so I told the guys it wasn't going to happen again," Datres said. "I came out and gave it my all."
Datres' all included retiring 17 of the first 18 hitters he faced. His only blemish was walking clean-up hitter Logan Stover to start the second inning. But Stover was quickly erased on a pickoff play which Moore and Glavin executed perfectly and Datres faced the minimum through six innings. He retired the side in order in five of his seven innings, including the third through sixth. He had retired 14 in a row before walking North Carolina State recruit Brett Kinneman - a teammate of Datres' during summer ball - on a borderline 3-2 pitch to lead off the seventh inning.
Datres then struck out Wetzel, his eighth, for the first out. Datres didn't get another call on a borderline 0-2 fastball to Carson Fries, and Fries drove the very next pitch past a diving Nate Krizan at shortstop for the only hit by the West York offense. Kinneman scored on the play cutting Loyalsock's lead to 5-1. But two batters later, Datres got a line drive out to Phil Krizan at second, and Krizan flipped to first for a double play to end the game.
"We needed (Datres) to come out and shut the door. When you have guys like Brett Kinneman going to N.C. State and these other guys who are very good athletes, we knew he had to come out and get it done for us," Eck said. "When you throw Kyle on the mound, you can take a deep breath."
"If you can command you fastball, everything else comes natural. I started spotting it up and hitting the glove and they were off-balance the rest of the game," Datres said. "As a pitcher, I always start off rough and work my way through and game and just get stronger the deeper into the game I go. My curveball started breaking a little more so they were out in front. I started going back to it a lot more."
Datres' performance on the mound help hide an inopportune offensive performance for the Lancers. Balawajder got the offense going with an RBI double with two outs in the first inning, and the Lancers scored again in the second on a two-out fielding error. But Loyalsock was also 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Loyalsock is 0 for 16 with runners in scoring position over its last two games.
Loyalsock left a runner stranded in scoring position in each of the first six innings. It had a golden opportunity with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, but the Lancers scored just once on a bases-loaded walk to Phil Krizan. Datres followed with a laser to left field which was caught, and West York's Mike Santiago then threw out pinch-runner Ben Sosa at the plate as he tried to tag up and score.
Balawajder, who transferred to Loyalsock from South Williamsport earlier this year, had four of Loyalsock's eight hits yesterday. He also stole a pair of bases and scored a run.
"We're missing a three or four bat in Robbie Klein. We've had to juggle some things around. Kyle has been a leadoff hitter his entire life, but we've put him in the three-hole and other guys have to step up," Eck said. "Joey goes 4 for 4 and he's putting it all over the field. He tagged the ball early on. The first couple game when we were struggling we didn't have anyone protecting Kyle. For Joey to be able to step up and protect Kyle the way he did is phenomenal."
Loyalsock 110 001 2 - 5 8 1
West York 000 000 1 - 1 1 4
Kyle Datres and Evan Moore. Mike Traettino, Cash Gladfelter (6), Carson Fries (6) and Cole Bixler. W - Datres. L - Traettino.
Top Loyalsock hitters: Jimmy Webb, 2-3; Phil Krizan, RBI; Joe Balawajder, 4-4, double, RBI, run; Tommy Baggett, 1-3, RBI, run; Luke Glavin, 1-3. Top West York hitters: Carson Fries, 1-3, RBI.
Pitchers' lines: Loyalsock - Kyle Datres (7 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks). West York - Mike Traettino (5 IP, 6 hits, 2 runs, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks); Cash Gladfelter (1/3 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 Ks); Carson Fries (1 2/3 IP, 1 hit, 2 runs, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 Ks).
With runners in scoring position: Loyalsock 0-10; West York 1-2.
Runners left on base-in scoring position: Loyalsock 9-6; West York 1-1.
Pitches-strikes: Loyalsock - Kyle Datres, 95-60. West York - Mike Traettino, 87-54; Cash Gladfelter, 21-12; Carson Fries, 20-11.
Batters faced-first pitch strikes: Loyalsock - Kyle Datres, 23-12. West York - Mike Traettino, 24-16; Cash Gladfelter, 5-2; Carson Fries, 5-2
Records: Loyalsock (4-2); West York (10-1).