Almost immediately after rounding first base, Evan Nagy became a target. His Loyalsock teammates sprinted forward and tackled the big shortstop and a dog pile ensued on top of the first-base bag.
It was a near replay of the scene that unfolded last year, when Bailey Young hit a walk-off single and lifted the Loyalsock high school team to a 5-4 state championship win over Beaver. All the Loyalsock players who competed Thursday at Short Park know all about those high school players who repeated as state champions last month.
And they are showing they are pretty good at this championship thing too.
Loyalsock players celebrate their victory over East Lycoming to win the District 12 Junior Baseball championship Thursday at Short Park. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
Nagy went 3 for 4, Dylan Armson homered and 10 players combined for 16 hits as Loyalsock defeated East Lycoming 15-5 in six innings and captured the District 12 Junior Baseball championship. This Junior all-star team features players who have won prior district, section and state titles at every level and they made a big statement in districts, outscoring three teams, 48-10.
"The Loyalsock High School team has been an inspiration to these kids and Coach (Jeremy) Eck helps them and comes to watch them play so they basically feel like they are auditioning," Loyalsock coach Rich Holz said. "It's nice to have the support of the high school and these kids know they are part of something special at Loyalsock right now."
Loyalsock advanced to next week's Section 3 tournament which it will host at Short Park starting Wednesday. Loyalsock plays its first game Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's Berwick/Athens game.
If Loyalsock builds off what it achieved during districts it could be tough to beat. Loyalsock won all three games by at least 10 runs and fought off a tough East Lycoming challenge last night, scoring nine runs in its final two at-bats after East Lycoming had pulled within 6-5. East Lycoming led 3-2 in the third inning before pinch-hitter Brennan Karney hit a two-out RBI single. Loyalsock scored three runs in the fourth inning, taking a 6-3 lead it never relinquished.
Eight starters delivered at least one hit each and reserves Karney and Zac Haefner went a combined 2 for 2 with two walks. The only two players who did not get hits both scored runs. Winning pitcher Logan Edmonds, Chase McNulty, Eric Holz and Brock Hepler each had two hits while showing the lineup is as deep as it is explosive.
"These kids have had a lot of success and they are a confident group. They are one of the best hitting teams we've had," Holz said. "Hughesville is a great team and we knew it was going to be a tough game and we know what these kids have inside them when the going gets tough."
East Lycoming won two straight games after losing to Loyalsock last Sunday and made Loyalsock earn its championship the hard way. East Lycoming collected six hits in the first three innings, scoring twice in the third on Jared Snyder's sacrifice fly to deep center field and Braden Foresman's RBI walk to take a 3-2 lead. Snyder had a big night, going 2 for 3 with four RBIs and his two-run fifth-inning home run made it 6-5.
After 15 years, East Lycoming coach Kevin Balliet coached his last Little League game Thursday. His team made it a good one, though, putting a scare into Loyalsock.
"I love this group of kids and the way they play together," Balliet said. "They made my last game special. Loyalsock plays with a lot of class and it's a good rivalry. It's been a long 15 years but there have been a lot of good memories."
East Lycoming pitcher Mike Hill has thrown well against Loyalsock in the past and kept his team in the game, throwing four solid innings. East Lycoming also delivered eight hits. Noah Green and Matt Myers each had two hits and five different players scored runs.
Lost in all the offense was two huge throws by Holz, Loyalsock's catcher, in the first two innings. Both times he threw out a runner trying to steal second on a first and third play for the final out, preventing East Lycoming from potentially taking a bigger early lead.
"They beat us pretty bad Sunday but the kids rebounded and played well together," Balliet said. "We gave them something to think about."
Loyalsock started breaking open the game in the fifth inning, scoring six runs on six hits and taking a 12-5 lead. Haefner hit an RBI double, McNulty slammed a two-run single and Holz and Mitch Klingerman capped the rally with RBI singles.
Loyalsock made it three straight mercy-rule wins an inning later as the game's final four batters reached base. Edmonds and McNulty hit RBI doubles before Nagy ripped the walk-off single and set off the celebration.
"It's nice to get this group together. We know everyone can contribute," Holz said. "The tough part is watching kids sit on the bench because they are all good. They are all hitters and they all wait for their chance."
East Lycoming102 020-5 8 2
Loyalsock021 363-15 16 2
Mike Hill, Jared Snyder (5) and Snyder, Brit Balliet (5). Evan Nagy, Logan Edmonds (4) and Eric Holz, Brock Hepler (4). W-Edmonds. L-Hill.
Top EL hitters: Noah Green 2-4, R; Matt Myers 2-4, R; Balliet 1-3, BB, R; Snyder 2-3, HR, 4 RBI, R; Zane Gee 1-2. Top Loyalsock hitters: Edmonds 2-5, 2B, RBI, 2 R; Chase McNulty 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R; Nagy 3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R; Holz 2-4, RBI, R; Brennan Karney 1-1, RBI; Dylan Armson 1-2, HR, 2 RBI; Hepler 2-4, 2 R; Zach Haefner 1-1, 2B, 2 BBs, RBI; Anthony Pastore 1-1, 3 R.
Records: Loyalsock 3-0. East Lycoming 3-2.