Twice in the last three innings Friday, Loyalsock's bullpen started buzzing. Central might have thought a new pitcher soon would enter.
That was wishful thinking. Loyalsock pitcher Kyle Datres had no intention of surrendering the ball. This was his game. This was his moment. And again, Datres owned it.
Datres put an exclamation point on a remarkable postseason, throwing a complete-game five-hitter and leading Loyalsock to a 5-1 Class AA state championship at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The Lancers (23-5) captured their second straight state title and Datres has thrown complete-games both times.
"There was nothing he (coach Jeremy Eck) could do," Datres said when asked about coming out. "He didn't have a choice."
Datres won his fourth straight state tournament start in 12 days and looked as strong at the end of the game as he did at the start. He struck out six and held a previously undefeated team hitting .406 to just two hits over the final five innings.
Starting Datres in a postseason game does not ensure victory. But it has become as much of a sure thing as there is in a wildly unpredictable game. The right-hander improved to 11-0 in his postseason career and has thrived in the situations that some others fear.
"Kyle's a fighter. There was no way he was coming off the mound," third baseman Joey Balawajder said. "Kyle is unbelievable. He pitched his game and we knew with him on the mound we had a good chance of winning."
When Duke-bound pitcher Luke Glavin was lost to injury early this season, many thought Loyalsock's repeat chances were finished. Other than Datres, no Loyalsock player threw any varsity innings last year. Players like Webb, Andrew Malone, Phil Krizan, Caleb Schmucker and Tommy Baggett did a nice job filling the void but when the playoffs started, Loyalsock turned to Datres.
He started six of eight postseason games, never allowing more than six hits and allowing just four earned runs in 40 innings. Loyalsock rode its horse and Datres proved a thoroughbred, throwing 27 2/3 straight scoreless innings at one point.
"With Kyle, I'm never surprised anymore," catcher Evan Moore said. "We just kind of expect it because that's how he is. He's the best athlete I've ever played with."
Some wondered if Datres would pitch yesterday on three days rest after a dramatic 4-3 win over Neumann-Goretti last Monday. If anyone really thought Datres would not take the mound, however, then they do not know the athlete.
"It (three days rest) didn't affect me at all. I came out and was feeling good," Datres said. "My legs were a little tired but I felt a lot better than I did against Neumann-Goretti. I felt comfortable on the mound."
The only thing greater than Datres's fantastic athletic ability is his will to win. He plays and thinks at a different level but it is that competitive spirit that really defines him and pushes him over the top.
That was on display the entire postseason and once again Friday. He opened the game by throwing a 90 mile-per-hour strike and ended it by hitting 92 mph in the seventh inning. He injured his leg running the bases, was knocked down on his hip after trying to field a rocket of a grounder up the middle and was facing another tremendous team.
And Datres kept getting back up, kept coming back stronger. As great a pitcher as Datres is, he is an even better overall player. That is why North Carolina recruited him. He went 3 for 3 with a walk yesterday, stealing a base and scoring two runs. That pushed Datres's average over .430 for a third straight year.
When he does not pitch, Datres plays shortstop as well as anyone in District 4. If one is making a list of the state's best Class AA players this year, Datres's name has to be at the top. Nobody did more or meant more.
"Do I think he's the best overall player in the state? Absolutely," Eck said. "Some of the guys that get the recognition and notoriety are guys who are not going both ways. I'm not taking anything away from them but Kyle is the guy that can do it all. If you put him behind the dish he'd be one of the best catchers in the state, if you put him at first base he would be the best. That's just his mentality. He's a special player. The Mike Mussina's, the Kelly Mazzante's, the Tierney Pfirman's, he's with them. You don't see it very often and for our area to produce the athletes we do, he's special."
Datres comes from an athletic family and they were all there Friday, sitting in the front row cheering him on. Especially proud was his older brother, Kory, a member of Loyalsock's first-ever district championship team in 2005 and a coach last year and through part of this season.
Older sister Kerri won a state championship on this same date in 2008, but Kyle has become Kory's reflection. Kory's fingerprints are all over his little brother's success and he has been a guiding force.
"He's the best coach I've ever had," Kyle said. "I wouldn't be here without him."
And Loyalsock would not be where it is without Datres. The same can probably be said for every Loyalsock starter. The team is a testament to determination and tenacity. Still, Datres is its MVP and the state's MVP.
Some have complained in the past that Datres gets too much publicity. That happens when one earns all-state honors in football, basketball and baseball. As second baseman Phil Krizan said after Datres threw a one-hit shutout in the state quarterfinals against Notre Dame-Green Pond, he makes it hard not to write about him.
All I can say to the critics is paraphrase Frank Sinatra. Stop complaining and enjoy the ride.
It sure is fun to watch.
"Some people say you read about it all the time in the newspaper. He deserves it," Eck said. "You don't see this. People need to come out and see this and appreciate the level of talent we have and what he is."
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him for more high school baseball information on Twitter at @docmasse