Lancers overcome injury bug

Even when they are not playing baseball, they injure themselves.

Saturday, Loyalsock pitcher Roger Wilson was swimming when he broke his finger. He joined a list of injured Lancers that has grown to near ridiculous portions throughout the season. Yet, there Wilson was Monday against Lakeland, coming in as a pinch-runner and scoring as Loyalsock blanked the District 2 champions, 6-0.

Welcome to Loyalsock baseball 2013 where bumps, bruises and pain have become requirements.

“We’re 19-3 and we’re banged up. We are like a walking hospital right now,” Loyalsock coach Jeremy Eck said. “It’s just finding a way at this point.”

And yet, Loyalsock once again is one of the state’s top eight Class AA teams. Through all the injuries and all the adversity, Loyalsock is still standing. The Lancers play Delone Catholic Thursday at Pine Grove in the state quarterfinals. It is the fourth time in six seasons Loyalsock (19-3) has reached the state’s Elite 8, but this time might be the most impressive.

Nothing has come easy, but nothing has fazed Loyalsock. Look at the Lancers’ starting lineup Monday and one saw a group of players who have dealt with at least one painful injury this season and sometimes several. The pitching staff has been a MASH unit throughout the season and things were complicated when one of the team’s best pitchers and players was kicked off the team.

So many times, Loyalsock could have buckled but instead it has thrived. Now the Lancers are three wins away from capturing a state championship.

“We fight back,” said Robbie Klein, who had two key hits against Lakeland. “It shows we’re mature.”

Loyalsock proved that again Monday, snapping Lakeland’s 16-game winning streak in its own back yard while handing ace Eric Grabowski his first loss in nine decisions. It was a win that showed as much about the team’s toughness as its talent, coming just three days after Loyalsock suffered a heart-breaking 7-5, nine-inning District 4 championship against Hughesville.

The Lancers again showed their resilience in that game, scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings but the loss stung. Instead of sulking and wondering what could have been, Loyalsock regrouped and thought about what could be. And now they are right where they want to be.

“It’s huge. We knew we couldn’t win them all, but we have the team to win states, so we had to go out and get it done,” said Luke Glavin after throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings and striking out five. “It’s a fresh start for us. We were happy to have it.”

Glavin is one of the many pitchers who has been sidelined at least once during the season. No matter what, though, Loyalsock keeps finding ways to win. It rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Towanda 4-3 in the district quarterfinals before Klein’s walk-off walk capped a dramatic 2-1 semifinal win over Montoursville. All this after winning 13 straight regular-season games and overcoming a deficit to win a fifth straight HAC-II championship.

When one player has gone down, another one has stepped forward. Eck and his coaching staff have constantly shuffled things around and it keeps working out.

Loyalsock entered the season as defending district champions and the favorite to repeat. So many things have happened that could have broken the team and made the state quarterfinals an afterthought. Opponents already knew how talented Loyalsock was, but now they know these players are, too.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” Eck said. “It’s never easy to make a run like we’re making.”

But keep running they do. Its tank has been near empty for large portions this season, but Loyalsock hopes to keep running toward glory.