Hughesville baseball in first D4 final

It is going where no Hughesville baseball ever has gone. It has achieved something no other Hughesville team ever has.

Yes, Hughesville, there is a Class AA state tournament and your Spartans will be playing in it.

Justin Lambert and Sadiq Burkholder combined on a five-hitter and Hughesville scored six two-out runs as it thumped Southern Columbia, 6-1, and made history in Thursday’s District 4 semifinals at Bowman Field. The Spartans (16-7) clinched their first district championship and state tournament appearances while also breaking the program record for wins in a season.

“It was a huge accomplishment and a great feeling to push through that wall and get to the next step,” said Lambert, who threw 5 1/3 strong innings to earn the win. “Now we’re going to come out (tonight), play our hardest and try to win again.”

“It’s a special moment to get to states and I’m proud of these guys because they are competing and grinding,” Hughesville coach Casey Waller said. “But we have a district championship and hopefully the guys will stay hungry and focused and I know we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

Hughesville meets Loyalsock in tonight’s championship back at Bowman Field.

The Spartans have taken the tough road to the final after starting the season 5-6. Since then they have won 11 of 12 games and are playing their best baseball when it matters most.

Jason Stroup and Zach Fry hit back-to-back 2-out, 2-run third-inning singles as Hughesville took a 4-0 lead. Southern was hitting .361 as a team but faced an uphill climb from there even without Lambert (7-2) having his best stuff.

The junior won his seventh game and did not allow an earned run. He scattered four hits before Waller pulled him with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning after throwing pitch No. 95 on a hot day. Burkholder came in and issued a bases-loaded walk and went to 2-0 on the next batter before inducing a grounder to shortstop Tyler Mitcheltree.

Mitcheltree stepped on second and made a snap throw to first, completing an inning-ending double play. Just like that, a potential disaster was ended and the next time Southern (17-6) batted, it trailed 6-1.

“It wasn’t nerves, but I was too geared up and moving too fast and getting out of control. I had to find it but we got it,” Burkholder said. “The team picked me up a lot after that sixth inning. Everybody was contributing and it was great.”

Burkholder helped his cause in the seventh inning, crushing a RBI triple before courtesy runner Knevin Gouldner scored on a wild pitch. Going against a pitching staff that has allowed no earned runs in its last four games, that lead might as well have been 15.

Burkholder and Lambert dominated one of the tournament’s top offensive teams and one that had won nine straight games. Burkholder struck out two in the seventh inning before inducing a game-ending flyout. He then emphatically pumped his fist as jubilant teammates approached and engulfed him.

History was theirs. New ground had been broken.

“Everybody has been working and grinding to get to this point,” Lambert said. “(Tonight) we’re going to try and take another step.”

Hughesville004 000 2-6 6 3

Southern000 001 0-1 5 1

Justin Lambert, Sadiq Burkholder (6) and Brett Reitz. Matt Klock and Taylor Young. W-Lambert, (7-2). L-Klock.

Top Hughesville hitters: Burkholder 1-2, 3B, RBI; Lambert 1-3, 2B; Jason Stroup 1-4, 2 RBI, R; Zach Fry 2-3, 2 RBI. Top Southern hitters: Young 2-4.

Records: Hughesville 16-7. Southern 17-6.