MONTGOMERY - Walk by the Montgomery baseball field during off-days and one often sees him. It might be a an off-day, it might be a Sunday, but Marcus Bartlett is usually working.
The public only sees the finished product, but it is the work he does when nobody watching that makes Bartlett successful. That goes for his team as well. And that is why they all looked so good Friday.
Bartlett threw a complete-game three-hitter, three Red Raiders had two hits and Montgomery scored five first-inning runs as it defeated rival Muncy, 7-2 and clinched its 10th straight District 4 Class A playoff berth. The Raiders (10-6, 7-5 HAC-III) have won six of seven games and are coming together at the perfect time while continuing the program's strong tradition.
Montgomery pitcher Marcus Bartlett takes the ball from third baseman Ray Farr after an out Friday vs. Montgomery. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"We get together and do activities together. Sometimes you will catch us down here on the weekend playing ball or doing something else. We're always bonding together," Bartlett said. "It's motivational. We started out rough but things are really coming together. It really matters how you finish, not how you begin."
Bartlett has consistently proven that and has won four straight starts, throwing complete-games each time. The senior right-hander almost always grows stronger as the game progresses and did so Friday, not allowing a hit after the third inning. Bartlett surrendered no earned runs, struck out six, moved the ball well and threw only 89 pitches.
A year ago, Bartlett went 6-0 but won a lot of those games against non-playoff teams while Alex Worthington served as the staff ace. When Worthington graduated, Bartlett knew it was his turn to fill a void that Worthington, Garrett Shynder and Joel Worthington have filled in recent years after replacing the prior ace.
Already a hard worker, Bartlett went into overdrive throughout the offseason and has shined in his final season. Even when he was 0-2, Bartlett was allowing few runs and now that he has been receiving steady run support he has been unbeatable, allowing just 11 hits in his last 21 innings.
"I think everyone is always working so we're always going to have that person (ace) there and Jake (Miller) and Dylan (Gordon) are big helps too," Bartlett said. "The run support is nice. It always takes some pressure off your back."
"He's a tough kid. After the year he had last year when he pitched well last year, we put that burden on him to be the No. 1," Montgomery coach Tom Persing said. "He worked hard through the winter and on days off comes out and works on his own with his dad. He's a hard worker and it's paying off for him. In my eyes he's one of the top pitchers in the district."
Montgomery is starting to play like one of the district's top teams too. The Raiders won their third straight and, since starting 4-5, have impressive wins over Danville, Bloomsburg and Muncy.
Montgomery made it happen with two outs yesterday, scoring five first-inning runs after two Muncy errors opened the door. Ray Farr and Zack Shadle helped kick down that door, delivering two-run, two-out singles. Bartlett (2 for 3), Shadle (2 for 3) and Thomas Goetz (2 for 4) had multi-hit games while Jake Miller had two RBIs, the second coming in the fourth inning and putting Montgomery up 7-2.
"That's what we need, good timely hits with runners in scoring position," Persing said. "They kept battling, kept hitting and kept putting the ball in play and that's all I can ask of them."
Muncy scored two second-inning runs to pull within 5-2 and had some third-inning momentum after Maurice Brown hit a lead-off single. A double play a pitch later on a hard-hit grounder and a flyball to deep right field following another hit stifled that threat and Bartlett dominated from there.
More frustrating for Muncy, though, was its continued defensive struggles. The Indians made two first-inning errors and had three in two innings. They have 17 errors in their last four games and 10 of the last 11 runs scored against Muncy have been unearned.
"We have some soul searching defensively to get the confidence back and make plays because from this point forward you have to make routine plays," Muncy coach Chris Persing said. "If we're going to win games and do the things we think we're capable of we have to start making routine plays. It's tough to beat good teams when you're not making those plays."
Dalton Smith provided Muncy a bright spot. The senior pitcher was outstanding in relief, throwing 3 innings of hitless relief. He struck out three and showed why he could provide some valuable pitching depth come playoff time.
If the district seedings stay as they are now, that first postseason game for Muncy and Montgomery would be against each other.
"He's not going to blow it by you but he has a sneaky fastball because he has that nice curveball to go with it," Chris Persing said. "He kept us in the game. He gave us a chance to win but Marcus made pitches when he had to and we couldn't chip away like we had to."
Muncy020 000 0-2 3 3
Montgomery510 010 x-7 9 2
Anthony Barberio, Andrew Keller (2), Dalton Smith (4) and T.J. Moyle. Marcus Bartlett and Michael Alexander. W-Bartlett, (4-2). L-Barberio, (2-2).
Top Muncy hitters: Maurice Brown 1-3; Moyle 1-3; Ken Koch 1-3, 2B, R. Top Montgomery hitters: Thomas Goetz 2-4, 2 R; Bartlett 2-3, R; Jake Miller 1-4, 2 RBI; Ray Farr 1-3, 2 RBI, R; Zack Shadle 2-3, 2 RBI; Bailey Wilk 1-2.
Records: Montgomery 10-6, 7-5 HAC-III. Muncy 11-5, 10-4.