Lancers, Spartans may play yet again

HUGHESVILLE — Jer­emy Eck and Casey Waller might not be coaching Loyal­sock and Hughesville anymore, but the rivalry those two state championship-winning coaches helped build certainly is losing no steam.

The names change, but the intensity does not. Loy­alsock and Hughesville played another fantastic game Monday at Bodine Park and it left spectators wondering how much fun a playoff rematch would be if these two perennial title contenders crossed paths again. For now, though, Loyalsock holds the bragging rights.

Andrew Malone allowed no earned runs in four innings of relief and hit a go-ahead sixth-inning RBI single as Loyalsock erased a three-run deficit and defeated Hughesville, 7-5. Ryan Fink went 2 for 4 with an RBI, Hunter Webb, Connor Watkins and Aaron Rae­more teamed up on a game-changing sixth-inning play and Loyalsock scored six runs in the fifth and sixth in­nings as it fought back from a 3-0 deficit.

“This is my first experience with this rivalry and I understood what it’s all about real quick,” Loyal­sock coach Zac Martin said. “It’s cool to be a part of and to be on the winning end is special because I know it means a lot to these kids.”

Loyalsock (15-3) scored four fifth-inning runs to take a 5-3 lead but Hughes­ville immediately answered and tied the game. Malone then hit a two-out RBI single, scoring Alden Mileto and Fink followed with an RBI single as Loyalsock took its 7-5 lead. An inning earlier, Webb, Malone and Fink all delivered timely hits as Loyalsock finally broke out after going 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position over the first four innings.

Larry Van Stavoren ig­nited the rally with a leadoff walk and Webb scored him with his RBI double. Malone tied it with an RBI single and Michael La­Point’s RBI fielder’s choice gave Loyalsock its first lead. Connor Watkins ad­ded a sacrifice fly and Alden Mileto started the sixth-inning rally with a lead-off walk before going to second on Van Stavoren’s bunt. Malone drilled the first pitch he saw into center field, giving Loyalsock a 6-5 lead and Fink made it 7-5 just two pitches later, dril­ling another RBI single.

“Last season and this season we’ve always been coming back. We like trying to hang in there and keep pushing ourselves and trying to come out on top,” Fink said. “It’s always a real fun game against Hughesville. Being able to pull this one out makes it sweeter. I feel like pressure makes it come out a lot better.”

Hughesville (12-6) certainly applied pressure, scoring three runs in the first two innings while building a 3-0 lead. Ryan McClain walked and scored on a wild pitch in the first inning and Conner Kepner was hit by a pitch before scoring on Matt Myers’ two-out RBI single. An inning later, Zack Murray doubled and pinch-runner Austin Long scored on a wild pitch.

Kepner also made two sensational plays down the third-base line robbing Loyalsock of hits those first two innings. And Murray was brilliant after entering in relief in the third inning and leaving the bases loaded with no outs after the Lancers had pulled within 3-1. Watkins doubled in the fourth and Aaron Raemore might have a had a two-run home run that tied it but the gusty winds kept it in the park and right fielder Brit Balliet made a difficult catch near the fence.

Despite all that, Loy­alsock remained optimistic. There was no panic and no quit. It showed over the last three innings as Loyal­sock went 4 for 7 with runners in scoring position and Malone struck out six in four innings to win his fourth straight game.

“Once we saw guys on we started to get into the flow,” Fink said. “We were doing the little things and the fundamentals and we started hitting and getting guys across.”

“We got punched in the mouth early by them and there was a sense of calm over here. It’s a good thing to see them stay together when it seems like everything is going against us,” Martin said. “We hit the ball hard and they made nice plays and to finally get them through later in the game is big.”

So was the play Webb, Wat­kins and Raemore made.

After Loyalsock took a 7-5 lead, Jaret Stroup hit a drive into the deep left-center field gap, starting the bottom of the sixth. Webb raced over from center field, retrieved the ball and rifled a perfect relay throw to Watkins who was playing shortstop. Watkins then turned and mirrored Webb’s throw, hitting Raemore chest-high. Raemore made the tag, preventing Stroup from delivering a lead-off double and dramatically changing the momentum.

“For them to get a guy on second base to start the inning is one thing but for us to throw him out is huge for our side,” Martin said. “Andrew is excited on the mound and everyone gets that burst of adrenaline. It’s the little things that we’ve done all year. It’s a great learning tool. For Hunter to have such a strong arm and hit his cuts twice, it’s him putting in for the team.”

Because last weekend’s Backyard Brawl was canceled, yesterday might have been Loyalsock’s last regular-season game. The Lancers are searching for another possible game or two and could finish second in the District 4 Class AAA standings behind Central Columbia (15-3) because of not having those Brawl games. Loyal­sock defeated Central last month, but if the Blue Jays win their last two games they will be the top seed since District 4 seeds teams based on winning percentage only.

Hughesville which has rallied from a 1-3 start has two games remaining and is still in the running to host a first-round game. Jared Snyder had two hits for the Spartans, McClain scored twice and Myers delivered an RBI hit for a fifth straight game.

Loyalsock 001 042 0–7 10 2

Hughesville 210 020 0–5 7 1

Logan Edmonds, Andrew Malone (4) and Eric Holz. Jacob Corson, Zack Murray (3) and Jared Snyder. W–Malone, (4-0). L–Murray, (1-4).

Top Loyalsock hitters: Larry Van Stavoren 1-2, BB, R; Hunter Webb 1-2, 2B, RBI, 2 R; Malone 2-4, 2 RBI, R; Ryan Fink 2-4, RBI, R; Logan Edmonds 1-2; Connor Watkins 2-3, 2B, RBI; Aaron Raemore 1-3, R. Top Hughesville hitters: Jacob Corson 1-4, R; Conner Kepner 1-2, R; Snyder 2-3; Matt Myers 1-3, RBI; Jaret Stroup 1-3; Murray 1-3, 2B.

Records: Loyalsock 15-3. Hughesville 12-6.