Young rebounds after being pulled

Bailey Young was behind 0-2 against Division I-bound pitcher Austin Ross Friday but would not go down. He fouled off one pitch, then another, then another.

Ross tried to sneak a fastball by him next, but Young drove it into right field. Young ran out of the shadows at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and into the bright sunshine. He turned around and saw Caleb Robbins score the game-winning run before being swarmed by jubilant teammates.

Loyalsock was the new Class AA state champion. A player who could have sulked and could have become a shell of himself was the hero.

Young’s walk-off single Friday lifted Loyalsock to a dramatic 5-4 PIAA final win over Beaver. It also put an exclamation point on a season that was tough but that ended in fairy-tale fashion.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Young, minutes after happy Loyalsock fans had repeatedly chanted his name. “I started peaking at the right time.”

Young was feeling anything but great after Loyalsock’s state quarterfinal against Delone Catholic was suspended after three innings 10 days ago. Coach Jeremy Eck decided to move Young from the starting catcher position and insert Evan Moore. Young would stay in the lineup as the designated hitter but a tough competitor and strong all-around athlete was frustrated.

“I know he wasn’t happy with me and that’s OK. Before that last at-bat I called timeout and brought him over,” Eck said. “I said, Bailey I know you’re upset with me but this is what it’s all about right here. It’s about the team and you have to find a way.'”

He did.

Young delivered the hit of his life. Considering the ramifications, it also is the biggest hit in Loyalsock baseball history. It was the end product produced by a player who kept fighting, kept playing hard and kept being the consummate teammate. It also was another big hit delivered by a junior making only his second career start as a designated hitter.

Young flourished in his first start last Tuesday, going 2 for 3 and slamming two doubles as Loyalsock thumped District 11 champion Salisbury, 8-1 in the Eastern final. That performance symbolized who Young is.

“He could have put his head down when we made the move and he could have quit on us,” Eck said. “That’s all the credit to him that he hung with me, trusted in me and then goes out and battles and wins a state championship like that.”

Young entered that final at-bat 0 for 2 while Tommy Baggett, hitting in front of him, was 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly and an RBI single in his two previous at-bats. Beaver opted to walk Baggett with first base open and Robbins on second and pitch to Young. The Bobcats might not have known that Young had pounded the ball the previous game or that he had produced a clutch late-game hit earlier in the postseason.

Or maybe they did. The problem was they just did not know Young. Given a chance at living a dream, Young made Beaver pay in the most painful fashion.

“I knew Bailey was going to come up big,” Baggett said. “He’s had big hits all year and I knew he was going to do it.”

Without Young, Loyalsock might not have been playing Friday. When the Lancers were locked in a scoreless pitcher’s duel between two of the state’s premier pitchers, Andrew Null and Kyle Datres, 17 days ago, Young came up big. The two-year starter belted a two-out, sixth-inning RBI single that gave Loyalsock a 1-0 lead over rival Montoursville.

Montoursville tied the game in the top of the seventh but Robbie Klein drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom half to win it. Take away Young’s hit, though, and the game is just tied, the outcome uncertain.

Overcoming adversity defined Loyalsock’s season. It also revealed a lot about Young’s character. He still wanted to be catching, but he never stopped working and never stopped believing in himself, his coaches or his teammates.

And because of that, Young always will be a part of Loyalsock lore.

“I’ll be talking about this for years,” Young said. “It’s a great feeling.”