Montoursville wins Section 3 tournament

Their baseball journeys are still in their infancy but the Montoursville Little Leaguers already have a moment they can treasure forever. Playing for a town that features one of the state’s best baseball traditions, this team has carved out its own niche.

Logan Ott and Cameron Wood combined on a five-hitter and host Montoursville scored five runs over the last two innings to edge Potter McKean, 8-6 Wednesday and capture its first Section 3 championship since 2002. Ott hit a game-tying RBI single in the sixth inning and Jaxon Dalena scored the winning run on a wild pitch before Wood stranded a runner in the bottom of the sixth as Montoursville earned a spot in the state tournament.

“Nobody can take that from them. I told them when you get older and you drive by here you will always see that,” Montoursville coach Lee Ranck said. “That’s theirs and they earned it.”

Montoursville will play its first state tournament game Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Section 6 champion which has yet to be determined. It is now one of the state’s best eight teams and is a tournament win away from reaching the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

Montoursville took the traditional victory lap following the medal presentation, carrying the championship banner for all its fans, who gave the Little League field a big league like environment, to see. That banner, though, only tells so much.

The championship is nice, but the way Montoursville won it defines who it is.

A night after losing 24-3 to Potter McKean, Montoursville fell behind 4-1 after one inning and was down 6-3 after four innings. A lot of teams might have buckled but Montoursville never broke. Its ultimate dream is still alive.

“We believed we could come back and win because everybody contributes,” Wood said. “Everybody can crush one over the fence or get a single or make a nice play. All 13 kids contribute every single game.”

Mason Sechrist and Dylan Moll came up big in the fifth inning, hitting a two-out RBI single and drawing an RBI walk, respectively. That gave Montoursville a lot of momentum entering the last inning and set the stage for a dramatic ending.

Pinch-hitter Austin Loe delivered one of his biggest hits this season, drilling a lead-off single into left field. Dalena walked two batters later before Ott (3 for 4, 2 RBIs) took an outside pitch the opposite way and dropped it down the left-field line for a game-tying single. Dalena went from first to third on the single and scored four pitches later when Wood walked and the ball went to the backstop. Hunter Shearer added an RBI grounder as Montoursville went up 8-6.

“We talk that it’s 18 outs and 6 innings and you can’t give up. They hung together and they just kept battling,” Ranck said. “The kids grew up a lot today. This is a big win for them and they showed a lot of maturity. They didn’t get down and they battled right to the end.”

Potter McKean scored 54 runs at the tournament and hit seven home runs in five innings between Tuesday and Wednesday before Ott started mowing them down so victory was far from secure. Wood was outstanding in relief, throwing 1 2/3 innings of hitless baseball but two one-out errors gave Potter McKean runners at second and third with one out and it’s Nos. 2-3 hitters coming up.

Wood threw two quick strikes to Howie Stuckey before combining with catcher Cole Ranck on the game’s biggest play. The next pitch went in the dirt and reached the backstop, but Ranck hustled after the ball, quickly retrieved it and made a snap throw to Wood who tug out the lead runner trying to score. Just like that, Montoursville was a strike from victory.

“I was confident we would get out of it and I felt a lot more comfortable when we got that guy out at home,” Wood said. “At first I didn’t think we could get him, but then I was running home and I thought we might have a chance and Cole made a good throw and I was able to get the tag down.”

One pitch later, it was over. Dalena fielded Stuckey’s grounder at second base, made the throw and Montoursville was a champion again. Seconds later, Wood was buried beneath a mass of humanity as all 13 players dogpiled close to the mound. They won together and celebrated together.

“I don’t even know what was going through my mind. I was just going crazy,” Wood said. “It was so exciting after districts and now winning this is even better.”

Ott, Sechrist and C.J. Signor all homered in the first two innings but Blake Burgett homered twice, driving in five runs and putting Potter McKean up 6-3 in the third inning. That was the only hit, though, Ott allowed after the first inning as he kept giving Montoursville a chance to come back, striking out five in 4 1/3 innings before Wood earned the win in relief.

Before Burgett hit his second home run, Montoursville’s defense delivered another huge play. With runners at first and second and no outs, Signor fielded a hard grounder down the third-base line and threw to Shearer at first for the first out. Shearer then made a perfect throw home and Ranck tug out the lead runner, completing a double play. Without that play, Burgett hits a three-run home run and makes it a 7-3 game and the damage might have continued.

It seemed like a little thing but it added up to something big. Afterward, Montoursville players and coached posed under the scoreboard holding their banner as the sun set behind them. The players will follow different paths in the future but that moment, that championship will be forever theirs.

“It was something,” Lee Ranck said. “These kids just battle and this was a big game for them. They stuck in there right to the end and you can’t take it away from them.”

Montoursville120 023-8 8 4

Potter McKean402 000-6 5 0

Logan Ott, Cameron Wood (5) and Cole Ranck, Ediel Rodriguez (4), Ranck (5). Kolby VanWhy, Blake Burgett (5) and Camden Graves, Noah Wichert (4). W-Wood. L-Burgett.

Top Montoursville hitters: Jaxon Dalena 1-3, BB, 2 R; Ott 3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R; Mason Sechrist 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R; Dylan Moll 2 BBs, RBI; C.J. Signor 1-3, HR, RBI; Austin Loe 1-1. Top Potter McKean hitters: Preston Cobb 1-2, RBI, R; Burgett 2-3, 2 HRs, 5 RBI, 2 R.