Warriors top Shore for first time since 2005

Montoursville’s Johna Laubaugh slides home during the Warriors’ game against the Jersey Shore Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon. (ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette)

Montoursville features no senior players and only two juniors. One of those juniors, right fielder Rachel Cortright, is playing again following a three-year absence.

Do not, however, let the Warriors’ youth or varsity inexperience fool you. These kids can play mighty well. They proved it again Saturday against a former nemesis.

Freshman Madi Jean threw a six-hit shutout and sophomore Jaylynn Cochran slammed a two-run double that highlighted a three-run rally as Montoursville blanked visiting Jersey Shore, 5-0, and beat the defending District 4 Class AAA champions for the first time since 2005.

“I’ve played with these girls since we started playing travel ball together and we’re having a lot of fun,” Jean said. “We have some really good bonds playing together.”

“They’re growing up real quick,” Montoursville coach Mike Tate said. “They’re like little sponges. Everything we try and coach them they absorb it. They take instructions well and we couldn’t be happier right now. We’ve been competitive in every game and it just continued today to the point of being able to win.”

Jean threw her second consecutive shutout against a strong offensive team and Montoursville (3-2) scored five runs in the third and fourth innings. Freshman catcher Jordan McCarthy, second baseman Faith Foster and shortstop Madison Shaffer all made outstanding plays that either saved runs or prevented hits. Put it all together and Montoursville looks like a team that has a bright present in addition to its bright future.

“Being as young as we are and gaining the experience with each and every game is great to see,” Tate said. “Even with the losses we’ve had, it’s not disappointing because you know how competitive they are and how hard they play.”

Jersey Shore (2-3) out-hit Montoursville, 6-3, but Jean and her defense repeatedly shined under pressure. Jean stranded nine runners and allowed just one hit with runners in scoring position. Jean retired the Bulldogs in order only once, but consistently made outstanding pitches at key times and forced Jersey Shore into leaving multiple runners on base three times.

Jean made her biggest pitch after Jersey Shore loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning. The right-hander fell behind in the count 3-0, but induced an inning-ending pop-up to third baseman Taylor Shuman. Jean then cruised through the seventh, retiring the top of Jersey Shore’s lineup in order and clinching the win.

Her defense gave Jean added comfort all afternoon. McCarthy hustled after a first-inning wild pitch with two outs in the first and made a snap toss to Jean to catch a runner trying to score on a wild pitch. Foster made a spectacular lunging catch that robbed Janel Eck of a fourth-inning lead-off single. Shaffer extended her body all the way, diving into the hole between shortstop and third in the sixth inning and taking a hit away from Jocelyn Barr. If Shaffer did not make that play, Jersey Shore would have scored instead of just loading the bases with two outs.

“My defense played awesome today,” Jean said. “Jersey Shore did a great job and definitely kept me on my toes. I had to hit my spots and I had to go out there with confidence. I knew my defense would help me and those plays get me really pumped up.”

Montana Ohl threw well for Jersey Shore and allowed just three hits in six innings of relief. Gabby Vuocolo and McKenna Russell each had two hits and Brianna Herman stole two bases. Like Montoursville, the Bulldogs are extremely young, have no seniors and lost several good players from last year’s district champion.

Jersey Shore looks like a team that could be mighty dangerous as the season progresses. Right now, it is a matter of fixing some of the little mistakes that hurt it yesterday and embracing roles.

“At the end of the day, our goal is 10 wins and to build on getting one percent better every day. If we get to 10 wins and we get to the postseason then that’s where the prize is,” Jersey Shore coach Dan Lazorka said. “We treat this thing like a family so as we grow and have games like this and maybe one girls role changes today or changes tomorrow and that’s part of the growing pains we have to get through. We carry more on varsity this season because we would hope they can go out every day and compete against each other but love each other at the same time. When that is the part of the growing pains you get over, it can be one of the most wonderful things they ever experience.”

Montoursville took a 2-0 lead it never relinquished in the third inning when Jean walked and scored on an error. McCarthy reached on that error and Cortright scored her when she hit an RBI fielder’s choice. An inning later Shaffer walked and Jean singled. McCarthy, the team’s No. 3 hitter then surprised Jersey Shore and dropped a perfect RBI bunt single that made it 3-0.

Cochran followed by slamming her two-run double down the left-field line and giving Montoursville a 5-0 lead. Ohl did not allow a hit after that, but Jean and her defense made that five-run lead look pretty imposing.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to preach to them is that little things will lead to big things,” Tate said. “They know they can compete and we could not be happier with the group of girls that we have.”

Jersey Shore 000 000 0–0 6 2

Montoursville 002 300 x–5 3 2

Gabby Vuocolo, Montana Ohl (2) and Alyssa Stover, Arizona Shreck (4). Madi Jean and Jordan McCarthy. W: Jean, (3-2). L: Ohl, (2-3).

Top Jersey Shore hitters: Vuocolo 2-4; McKenna Russell 2-3; Brianna Herman 1-2, 2 SBs; Allison Lorson 1-2. Top Montoursville hitters: Jean 1-2, 2 runs; McCarthy 1-3, RBI, 2 runs; Jaylynn Cochran 1-3, 2B, 2 RBIs; Madison Shaffer 2 BBs, SB, run.

Records: Montoursville (3-2), Jersey Shore (2-3).