A fan approached Brandon Good as he took practice swings prior to the sixth inning and made a request. He asked the Montoursville center fielder to hit a home run for his grandmother. Three pitches later, Good obliged, slamming a lead-off home run over the left-field fence.
Baseball is not supposed to be easy and hitting home runs is anything but easy.
Montoursville just made it look that way Saturday.
Jaxon Dalena, left, and Logan Ott, right, round the bases after Ott’s home run in the second inning Saturday vs. Selinsgrove. Logan Hile of Selinsgrove stands in the foreground. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
Montoursville belted five home runs and delivered 14 hits in its Section 3 tournament opener as it thumped Selinsgrove, 15-5, and advanced to Sunday's winners' bracket final against Potter McKean back at Montoursville. Logan Ott homered twice and nine players combined for the 14 hits as the District 12 champions topped 10 runs for a fifth straight all-star game.
"We preach having good at-bats and we try to work the pitchers," Montoursville coach Lee Ranck said. "Their approaches are strong. We battle at the plate and it pays off."
Montoursville scored multiple runs in five innings, took a 6-0 second-inning lead and scored the game's final nine runs after Selinsgrove pulled within 6-5 after the second inning. Montoursville has outscored five all-star opponents 69-13 and hopes to continue that success against Potter McKean, which defeated Orwigsburg, 8-3 in the day's first game.
Ott, Good, Cameron Wood and winning pitcher Hunter Shearer homered and second baseman Jaxon Dalena went 4 for 5 with four runs and two RBIs while playing outstanding defense. Ott homered in both the second and third innings and went back-to-back with Wood in the second as Montoursville took a 6-0 lead.
Selinsgrove stormed back and Ben Heim's three-run home run made it a one-run game in the second inning. Instead of letting down, Montoursville immediately fought back and changed the game's complexion.
Dalena hit a one-out single before Ott (4 RBIs) crushed the next pitch way over the right-center field fence and made it 8-5. Two batters later, Shearer homered, driving a long shot well over the left-field fence and Montoursville regained momentum that it never relinquished.
"They had the momentum and we came in and had a couple homers and the momentum shifted. They really didn't get a whole lot going after that and that's momentum in sports. It is a big deal," Ranck said. "We try to preach that if you can score a few runs in an inning and come back and hold them that is huge. They go out and score five and we get three back and that's huge. It's all about the kids doing what we ask them to do."
Montoursville homered five times over the last five innings but set the game's tone without hitting one in the first inning. Mason Sechrist delivered a one-out RBI single to score the game's first run before C.J. Signor and Cole Ranck hit clutch two-out RBI singles that made it 3-0. Signor fought back from an 0-2 count before hitting a single into center field and Ranck singled to left field on an 0-1 pitch.
Whether ahead or behind in the count, Montoursville hitters displayed good discipline. Batters rarely swung at pitches out of the zone, often fouled off two-strike pitches and forced Selinsgrove pitchers to come to them. The results were impressive as Montoursville hit up and down the lineup and had eight players score at least one run.
"We have 13 kids and they all work really hard. They can all hit," Ranck said. "We've had days where the substitutes come in and hit doubles and home runs and having all that depth is definitely a plus."
It helps defensively too. Montoursville played a flawless game, making no errors. Signor made two nice plays at third in the first inning and Ranck threw out the lead runner trying to advance on a wild pitch in the second inning. It was a little thing that easily is lost in the offensive numbers, but it also was a huge play since Selinsgrove scored five runs that inning and possibly could have taken the lead had that play not been made.
The outfielders covered well and never let runners take an extra base, another big factor in helping Montoursville pitchers strand six runners. That is the way Montoursville has played the last few years as the core of this team captured district and section championships last year before reaching the state final.
Montoursville has a long way to go yet, but it definitely has started strong while trying to build off last year's success.
"We've all been here before and the experience helps," Ranck said. "If things go south a little bit early the game is six innings and you have to play whole game and this group has done that so far. They're mature kids for 11-12 and they have definitely played well."
Montoursville333 402-15 14 0
Selinsgrove050 000-5 10 2
Hunter Shearer, Logan Ott (4), C.J. Signor (6) and Cole Ranck, Ediel Rodriguez (3), Ranck (5). Evan Hoke, Josh Nylund (2), Wyatt Metzger (4) and Metzger, Schon (4). W-Shearer. L-Hoke.
Top Montoursville hitters: Jaxon Dalena 4-5, 2 RBI, 4 R; Ott 2-4, 2 HRs, 4 RBI, 2 R; Cameron Wood 1-3, HR, RBI, 3 R; Shearer 3-3, 2 BBs, HR, RBI, 2 R; Signor 1-3, RBI; Ranck 1-3, RBI; Brandon Good 1-2, HR, RBI. Top Selinsgrove hitters: Ben Heim 2-3, HR, 3 RBI; Schon 2-3; Alex Smith 1-1; Nick Sheaffer 2-2; Colton Hoover 1-2, 2 RBI.