Lancers stick together on way to state final

Being on a team can make players and coaches do things they never would consider under normal circumstances. Getting mohawk haircuts falls into that category.

That, though, is what the Loyalsock baseball team’s players did prior to the postseason starting. Coach Jeremy Eck joined in after the Lancers reached the state semifinals. Who knows what will happen to their hair if they win the state title?

Loyalsock does more conventional things, too. The Lancers get together after games and eat at Rivals and sometimes head to Kyle Datres’ parents’ house and have root beer floats. Whatever the team does, it does together.

And that is how it hopes to win a state championship. Loyalsock goes for Class AA’s biggest prize today at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park when it plays West champion Beaver.

“We’re a family and when you get to this point you have to be a family. You can’t just have a bunch of guys out there trying to get it done. You have to come together as one unit and we’re doing that right now,” Eck said. “I love these guys. They give me everything they have. Me and all the coaches would do anything for these kids and it’s great to get this opportunity.”

Loyalsock (21-3) is playing for its second state championship since 2008 and has hung together when times were tough. A series of injuries and other issues threatened to derail this season, but every time something bad happened, players and coaches rallied around each other and pulled tighter. The Lancers became stronger as a result.

The East Region champions have responded to their only losses with winning streaks and have been at their best since losing a heartbreaking District 4 final to Hughesville. Since then, Loyalsock has outscored three district champions that were a combined 61-8 by a 23-6 margin. They weathered the hard times together and are now experiencing the best of times together.

“We’re all brothers and we all feed off each other,” right fielder Jimmy Webb said. “We just love to be on the field with each other.”

“The more you play together, the more in sync you get,” infielder Ethan Moore said. “We’re just like a family. Right now everyone is playing great and we’re coming together. It’s a fun experience.”

Loyalsock hopes the good times continue against Beaver. The Lancers played their best game in Tuesday’s Eastern final against Salisbury. Every offensive starter delivered a hit and the defense played an error-less game while Luke Glavin threw a complete-game five-hitter.

The Lancers had only two days to prepare for Salisbury after finishing a suspended state quarterfinal against Delone Catholic on Saturday. Loyalsock trailed that game by four at one point and was still down a run when the game resumed. Again, Loyalsock came together and thrived in an unusual situation, outscoring Delone 5-0 once play resumed.

Loyalsock picked up where it left off against Salisbury and wants to do the same today.

“Our fielding and pitching have been there all year but we’ve had one guy hot and the rest not hitting,” Webb said. “We’re all hot now and that’s good for the state championship. We want to bring that state title back to Loyalsock.”

Loyalsock has all but two starters back from last year’s district championship team. That team lost in the opening round of states, but the Lancers received a taste of the tournament and used that early exit as motivation. They would not be denied this time. Nothing came easy this season and Loyalsock had to win two one-run thrillers just to reach states.

The injuries piled up and Eck never knew who would be available to pitch from one game to next at one point. The Lancers persevered through it all. Now they are where they want to be. All the adversity, all the drama has led to this moment. Now they want to have fun, enjoy that moment and own it.

“I think we have as much a chance as the other team,” Moore said. “We feel pretty good about ourselves. We play like we did (Tuesday) and play with passion, anything can happen.”

Whatever happens, Loyalsock will do it together.