Learning to win

HUGHESVILLE – When senior pitcher Justin Lambert grew up playing Little League baseball, he didn’t imagine sending out a text the night before his final regular-season home game in high school telling his Hughesville teammates to play hard and finish perfect at home. Back in his Little League days, winning any game proved difficult for Lambert and his teammates.

“We lost everything,” Lambert said.

Now it’s news when the Spartans lose.

Many of the current Spartans who were members of those Little League teams were recognized by head coach Casey Waller and their families prior to Tuesday’s game and they once again showed how far a bit of determination and persistence can pay off with a come-from-behind 12-3 victory over Muncy ace Ken Koch and the Indians.

Hughesville (15-3) fell behind Muncy 3-0 after 2 1/2 innings and faced a long uphill battle against one of the area’s best pitchers all season in Koch.

“We were facing one of the state’s best pitchers as coach said at the beginning of the game and a pitcher that throws gas with great offspeed stuff and good command,” Lambert said. “We knew we were going to be in for a dogfight.”

The Spartans lost the first two rounds of that fight, striking out five times over the first two innings but when Hughesville began making contact against the junior right-hander, Muncy’s defense began to unravel.

A pair of errors in the third inning resulted in Koch throwing over 30 pitches during one of the hottest days of the season. After allowing just an infield single and another runner to reach by the first of four Muncy errors, Koch faced eight batters in the first two innings before Hughesville batted around in the third.

The inning began innocently with a single from No. 9 hitter Cody Stryker, but two errors and a hit batter later and the Spartans were on the board for the first time.

After Lambert took a ball off the meat of his left arm, catcher Brett Reitz came up with Hughesville’s most solid hit of the day up to that point, a bases-clearing double to right-center field to make the score 4-3 Hughesville.

“We haven’t faced (coming from behind) this year unlike last year when we were always playing from behind and we weren’t a good play from behind team,” Waller said. “It was good to see that the guys didn’t hang their heads and kept their energy in the dugout today. Once we got that big hit, that eased things up a bit.”

A Jeremiah McCarty single made it 5-3 before Koch worked his way out of the inning with a pop out and his seventh strikeout.

“He’s a great pitcher and he had good stuff today, but we eventually put the ball in play and made good things happen,” Lambert said.

Koch struck out the leadoff hitter in the fourth inning before hitting his second batter of the game. Brady Kimble dropped a sacrifice bunt to move Tyler Mitcheltree from first base to third base, after he took advantage of no one covering the bag at third, with two outs. An error extended the inning and three consecutive singles brought home two more runs to make it 8-3 Hughesville after four innings.

“You can’t give up that many unearned runs against a good team with a good pitcher,” Muncy coach Chris Persing said. “You just can’t do that and it has been plaguing us for the last week and a half. Kenny was throwing a gem there. We just have to find a way to make routine plays more routine.”

Koch threw 3 2/3 innings and struck out eight, including the three hitters he faced in the second inning. He allowed seven runs but none were earned.

Lambert, who never lost his poise after Muncy took a 3-0 lead after 2 1/2 innings despite knowing he was facing an elite pitcher on the other side, struck out six over five innings before giving way to Tyler Mitcheltree who struck out four over his two innings of relief.

Lambert surrendered a single run in the second inning and two more in the third after a clutch two-out double by Levi Myers after the Indians loaded the bases with no outs.

The Indians (12-6) wouldn’t score again. Muncy did have a runner thrown out at third base and another runner caught stealing with runners on the corners in the fifth inning.

Brown, Koch and Andrew Keller had two hits apiece for Muncy.

Lambert, Kimble and Jeremiah McCarty had two hits each for Hughesville. Reitz finished with three hits and five RBIs. The Spartans, who won their eighth consecutive game, finished with 12 hits off three Muncy pitchers.

“The bats showed up today and today was the first day where we came out and swung the bats really well one through nine,” Waller said.

Muncy012 000 0 – 3 9 4

Hughesville005 313 x – 12 12 1

Ken Koch, Dalton Smith (4), Zach Zellers (6) and TJ Moyle. Justin Lambert, Tyler Mitcheltree (6) and Brett Reitz. W – Lambert. L – Koch.

Top Muncy hitters: Maurice Brown 2-3, run; Ken Koch 2-3, run; Levi Myers 2b, 2 RBIs; Andrew Keller 2-3, run. Top Hughesville hitters: Brady Kimble 2-3, RBI; Lambert 2-3, 3b, 3 runs, RBI; Brett Reitz 3-4, 2 runs, 5 RBIs; Jeremiah McCarty 2-3, run, 2 RBIs.

Records: Hughesville 15-3, Muncy 12-6. Next: Hughesville at Shamokin, Thu.; Muncy at CMVT, Thu.