Loyalsock senior starter Bailey Young spent Monday afternoon at the emergency room. Young is battling an illness and three other Lancers are battling sinus infections and yet others are nursing injuries.
But Kyle Datres was feeling great Monday. And that meant Bald Eagle had little chance.
Datres pitched one of the best games of his scholastic career Monday, throwing five innings of no-hit baseball while helping Loyalsock defeat Bald Eagle Area, 6-1 in its state tournament opener. The defending state champions won their fifth straight state tournament game and advanced to Thursday's state quarterfinals where they will play District 11 champion Notre Dame-Green Pond.
Tommy Baggett of Loyalsock can’t come up with a throwing error as Bald Eagle Area’s Bryan Greene is safe at first in the seventh inning. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"That might be the sharpest I've seen him," Loyalsock coach Jeremy Eck said. "You don't say a kid is one of the best athletes in the state in three sports and one of the top recruits in the country because he's a slouch. Big-time players step up in big-time games and that's Kyle Datres. It doesn't matter what situation it is Kyle is going to get it done and once again you saw that."
Datres has thrown 18 1/3 straight scoreless playoff innings and was just about perfect, retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced while striking out six. BEA (14-8) only put one runner on against Datres and that came via a two-out first-inning error. From there, Datres retired the last 13 batters he faced before Andrew Malone closed out the win.
Datres threw only 62 pitches, worked ahead, had a team hitting .335 collectively baffled and, most important, stayed eligible to pitch Thursday. Because he only went five innings, Datres requires only two days rest via PIAA rules.
Forget going trying to throw a no-hitter in the state playoffs. Datres, the coaches and all the Lancers have the big picture in mind.
"At this point in the year it's all about the team. It doesn't matter at this point, we're just trying to get three more wins," Datres said. "Coach said just fight through and give it all you've got and that's what I tried to do today. I felt good. It was a nice warm day and it worked out."
Loyalsock (20-5) won its 12th straight game, scoring runs in the first and third innings before breaking things open with a four-run fifth-inning rally. Tommy Baggett drew an RBI walk before Joey Balawajder hit a two-run single. Evan Moore added a RBI single, making it 6-0 and giving Eck the confidence to bring in Malone. The freshman left-hander allowed just an infield single, bringing Loyalsock within two outs of a combined no-hitter.
Malone worked ahead, threw a perfect sixth inning and gained some valuable state tournament experience moving forward.
"(Catcher) Evan (Moore) comes out to me and says you have a state championship defense behind you, so just throw it in there and they make the plays," Malone said. "I felt great. Coming off the Bloom game I felt like I needed a lot better performance. I came in with the pitching coach and worked on mechanics and just pounded the zone."
Loyalsock took a 1-0 first-inning lead when Jimmy Webb (2 for 3) was hit by a pitch and Phil Krizan (2 for 2) walked. Baggett delivered a big two-out single, scoring Webb. Webb went from scoring a run to driving one in two innings later, following a Datres double with an RBI single that made it 2-0.
The Lancers came alive offensively in states last year and started doing that yesterday. Eight of the nine starters delivered 10 hits and Krizan reached base four times. Krizan walked twice and combined with his younger brother Nate to play outstanding defense in the middle of Loyalsock's infield.
"Just like last year the offense is the thing that came on last and it eventually came," Datres said. "Right now we're peaking at the right time and that's what we need."
The Lancers might be sick and sore in spots but they are still standing. They are three wins away from their ultimate goal. That is all that matters to them.
"We said to them this is the time that you have to be men and you have to step up and work through it," Eck said. "Everyone is talking about the bulls-eye, but everybody at this point is 0-0. There's eight teams left in state and we have to come out and play ball like we just did."
BEA 000 000 1-1 1 1
Loyalsock101 040 x-6 10 2
Colton Comly, Jeff Bennett (5) and Bryan Greene. Kyle Datres, Andrew Malone (6) and Evan Moore. W-Datres, (6-3). L-Comly, (7-4).
Top Loyalsock hitters: Datres 1-4, 2B, R; Webb 2-4, RBI, R; Phil Krizan 2-2, 2BBs, R; Robbie Klein 1-2, R; Tommy Baggett 1-3, 2 RBI, R; Moore 1-2, RBI; Joey Balawajder 1-3, 2 RBI; Nick DiFrancesco 1-3, 2B.
Records: Loyalsock 20-5. BEA 14-8.