Krizan does it all

Phil Krizan did not feel right. He did not look right.

Midway through Monday’s Class AA Eastern Region championship, Krizan was fighting dehydration. He was woozy and a little off-balance. But he never considered exiting the game. If any others thought Krizan would leave, they just do not know him.

An inning after being on the ropes, Krizan came back strong and helped turn a momentum-changing double play. An inning after that, he snared a hard-hit line drive and turned another double play. That is who Krizan is and that is a big reason Loyalsock is playing in its second consecutive state championship.

Krizan has been one of Loyalsock’s toughest and most valuable players this season and will play his final scholastic game on the biggest stage Friday as the Lancers meet Central in the state final.

“There was no way he was coming out of the game,” shortstop/pitcher Kyle Datres said. “He’s a fighter and he’s going to stay in there until he absolutely can’t.”

Krizan has done a little bit of everything to help Loyalsock (22-5) get back to the state final. He came on strong at second base last season, hitting and fielding well, as Loyalsock captured the state championship.

Krizan has done even more this season. He helps anchor the infield with his steady play, has been one of the team’s best hitters, and even has come up huge as a relief pitcher, earning the save in the District 4 championship. Whatever Loyalsock needs, Krizan provides. Maybe there are better players in specific categories, but Krizan can do it all and has become a complete package.

“Phil is a huge leader, vocally and by example. Phil is one of our, if not our most passionate guys,” first baseman Tommy Baggett said. “He shows up to the park every day and just works his butt off. He’s a really great player and a real gamer.”

Injuries threatened to derail Loyalsock at different times this season, but Krizan has been a calming influence. He went from being a catalyst at the bottom of the lineup to a threat in the No. 3 spot. Krizan has an on-base percentage hovering close to .500 and also is an outstanding bunter.

Most No. 3 hitters are big boppers, but that really is not Krizan’s role. Hitting behind Division I recruits Datres and Jimmy Webb and in front of 2013 all-state outfielder Robbie Klein, Krizan serves as a terrific bridge. He is skilled at moving runners, getting on base and generally being a pest at the plate. It is a different role but one he has embraced.

Krizan does the little things that often go unnoticed but that produce big results. He understands the game and always seems to handle any situation. He is one of District 4’s best second basemen and has made a series of outstanding players in the last two state tournaments that have been game-changers. He did it against Salisbury in last year’s semifinals and did it again Monday, turning those two double plays.

After Krizan took Joey Balawajder’s throw, tug second and threw to Baggett for the fifth-inning double play, Loyalsock went ahead to stay in the bottom of the inning. Loyalsock held a tenuous 3-2 lead in the sixth with the tying runner on first. This time, Krizan snared the liner and immediately threw out the runner at first, wasting no motion. The Lancers added another run in the bottom of the sixth and wonders what could have become of the game had Krizan not made those plays.

“He’s always underrated. He’s going to go out there and literally give you everything he has every day,” catcher Evan Moore said. “He does everything as hard as he can no matter what. He’s one of those people that will make the outstanding play but also will never miss the easy play. He knows his stuff and he always knows the situation and how to deal.”

Krizan never pitched a varsity inning prior to 2014, but again made a strong transition. Helping fill a void after Duke-bound Luke Glavin was lost for the season, Krizan delivered a series of outstanding relief performances and came up huge in districts. After stomping out a Wellsboro rally in the opening round by striking out the team’s best hitter, Krizan took the ball in the fourth inning of the final with two on while protecting a one-run lead against Bloomsburg.

Oh yeah, Krizan also was facing Stanford-bound Colton Hock who was hitting .541. Showing no fear, Krizan went right after Hock and struck him out. It was a preview of things to come as he allowed no earned runs and struck out four in 3 1/3 innings as Loyalsock won, 7-4.

Whatever his role, whatever the challenge, Krizan keeps embracing them.

“He comes up big,” Krizan said. “He’s the leader of our team and he doesn’t want it to end yet.”

It looked like Krizan’s senior season might end early a little more than a month ago. Loyalsock was reeling at 8-5 and looked like an ordinary team. Krizan was one of the players who would not let Loyalsock settle for mediocrity. He elevated his performance, so did his teammates and now Loyalsock is one of the state’s top two teams.

He might not lead Loyalsock in wins or average or RBIs, but that does not matter. Simply put, there is no way Loyalsock is still playing without Krizan.

“I knew it was going to be hard and we were going through a lot of stuff, but I never thought we didn’t have a chance,” Krizan said. “A month ago I knew it would be hard to get back here. But we’ve done it.”

And Krizan helped lead the way.