BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

With college choice made, Malone off to a strong start

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette
Andrew Malone delivers a pitch earlier this season against Danville. Malone will play baseball at Mount St. Mary’s next season in college.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Andrew Malone delivers a pitch earlier this season against Danville. Malone will play baseball at Mount St. Mary’s next season in college.

When Loyalsock pitcher Andrew Malone committed to Division I Mount St. Mary’s last summer he heard as many questions as he did congratulatory responses. Several wondered why he was making his decision before his senior year even started.

Malone is showing them why every time he plays this spring.

Malone is playing loose and free. He is unemcumbered by future choices and can simply enjoy his final scholastic campaign. That has both he and Loyalsock mighty happy, too.

The season is still early, but Malone looks dominant once again. The left-hander has not allowed an earned run in 10 innings and threw five outstanding innings in last Monday’s 10-1 over cross-creek rival Montoursville.

“It (a college decision) was a big burden, especially after my junior year. A lot of people questioned why I committed this early, but it’s definitely a comfort,” Malone said. “I’m blessed every day to step on this field with my best friends and a great coaching staff. Having the chance to come out here every day is more of a fun thing.”

Opponents have little fun hitting against Malone. A year after recording an area-low sub-1.00 ERA and allowing just 16 hits in 42 innings, Malone again looks nasty. Malone threw four shutout innings against Danville and allowed just an unearned run against Montoursville. He has struck out 13 and overpowered Montoursville, retiring the last nine batters he faced. He needed just eight pitches to end the fourth and fifth innings.

“Any time Malone is out there and you can tack on a couple runs you feel confident in what he can do,” Loyalsock first-year coach Zac Martin said. “The team gets a little extra pep in their step when he’s on the mound. They know he’s going to let them work and keep the ball in play.”

Malone obviously has excellent stuff. He throws hard, mixes his pitches well and he has good movement. What helps take Malone to another level is his ability to stay calm under fire. Take away Malone as a freshman when he showed no fear during the 2014 season, and Loyalsock likely does not win that year’s state championship. He earned the win in the district championship game that season and also threw well in the state tournament’s first round.

Growing only better since then, Malone really never changes his demeanor. Whether up or down, whether cruising or facing a jam, Malone maintains his composure. It is one of his greatest assets and serves both he and his teammates well.

“Andrew doesn’t get rattled. He is all about this game and he’s all about this team and what we’re capable of,” Martin said. “Malone is a second coach. He’s in the dugout helping out. He’s something special and he has a lot of confidence. He’s confident, but not cocky.”

That has Mount St. Mary’s excited. Montoursville graduate Vincent Molesky put together a terrific collegiate career there and the Mountaineers are hoping they strike Lycoming County gold again. Malone received significant Division I interest and considered both Radford and James Madison. Penn State and Bucknell also showed interest, but Mount St. Mary’s felt right and Malone immediately knew that is where he wanted to play next.

“Right when I stepped on campus it just clicked. It’s that kind of feeling where you don’t want to leave. There was definitely a comfort level there,” Malone said. “It definitely carries out on the field because it gives me a little more sense of pride.”

Malone will be the third Loyalsock player competing at the Division I level next spring, joining North Carolina’s Kyle Datres and Lehigh’s Luke Glavin. But the future can wait for now. Malone is completely focused on helping Loyalsock make another extended playoff run. As good as Malone has been, it has always been about the team and not him.

Find someone who has something negative to say about Malone and you could be searching for quite a long time. A good student, Malone has made a big impact on and off the field at Loyalsock. Malone is enjoying his final high school season and Loyalsock is enjoying having him be a positive influence once again.

“It’s one thing to be good at baseball, but it’s another thing to be the high quality person he is and to have that high character,” Martin said. “He has the whole package.”

BLOWING SMOKE

South Williamsport is a young team which has battled costly early-season injuries and started 0-2. It also proved last week it is a pretty good team, too. South won three consecutive games, all against good teams, and showed why it could emerge as a serious District 4 Class AA title contender.

The Mounties overcame deficits in each game, overcoming a five-run deficit to beat 2016 District 4 Class AA finalist Warrior Run, 8-5. South has received strong pitching in all five games and now the hitting is catching up. Put it all together and South is doing good work for first-year coach Paul “Smokey” Stover.

“Hopefully they don’t feel inferior now. I hope that feeling is gone,” Stover said following the Warrior Run win. “We’re not going to win them all. We’re going to get blown out sometimes and we’re going to blow out some teams. That’s baseball, but we can get good and we can be as good as anyone.”

Since the fourth inning against Warrior Run, South outscored the Defenders and Milton, 15-2. Tripp Breen has been dominant in his three outings and earned the win against Hughesville last Monday. Aaron Hughes threw three innings of one-hit baseball against Milton, Hunter Corbin struck out five in three innings against Warrior Run and Aaron Guerrisky threw three scoreless innings to close out that game.

And now that the offense is taking off, South looks especially strong. Pat West had five hits in South’s last two wins and Ben Johnson went 2 for 4 with a double and triple against Milton. In three wins last week, South delivered 30 hits and might have changed it’s season’s complexion.

“It’s a big stepping stone and shows we can play with anybody,” Guerrisky said. “This brings a lot of confidence to us. Freshmen through seniors, everyone was playing well.”

AROUND THE AREA

Montgomery might have no seniors and only two juniors but it is growing up fast and has won three straight. The Red Raiders (3-1) recorded a big win Thursday, overcoming a four-run fifth-inning deficit and beating defending HAC-III champion Warrior Run, 7-6, and Jensen Drick had two hits and two RBIs against Warrior Run. Sophomore Brayden Strouse threw a four-inning no-hitter in a 15-0 win over Bucktail and freshman Trevor Miller is 2-0 … Hughesville is showing a flair for the dramatic and rallied for two one-run wins last week, beating Southern Columbia, 6-5, and Bloomsburg, 3-2, on consecutive days. Mike Hill hit a walk-off single after Hughesville (3-3) overcame a pair of two-run deficits. Zach Murray and Conner Kepner combined on a five-hitter against Bloomsburg, and freshman Jacob Corson went 3 for 3 as a young team started building momentum … Jersey Shore’s Brandon DePasqua is having a strong season and went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and two runs in Saturday’s 9-0 win at Wellsboro … Wilson Fisher hit a walk-off single as Lewisburg beat Shamokin, 6-5, and won its second walk-off contest this season. Dakotah Snyder took a shutout into the seventh inning two days later when Danville won on a walk-off, 1-0 … Montoursville (2-2) bounced back from the Loyalsock loss in strong fashion, beating Jersey Shore and Mifflinburg. The defense showed dramatic improvement, making only one error in the two wins and the offense came to life against Mifflinburg, generating 14 hits. Mitchell Rothrock, Gabe Phillips and Nolan Ott all had multi-hit games in Saturday’s 14-5 win against Mifflinburg … Jaiden Cioffi went 3 for 5 and earned the save as St. John Neumann won its first game, edging Benton, 11-10.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.

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