Keystone team champion in District 12 8-10 Baseball

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Keystone’s Watt Probst, left, and Darius Shadle congratulate each other after winning the district championship over Loyalsock at Volunteer Stadium Saturday.

Loyalsock starting pitcher John Kiehl took the Volunteer Stadium mound Saturday morning in the District 12 final, full knowing that a week earlier he was the losing pitcher in a 26-1 loss to the same batters that were just 46 feet away from him.

But that didn’t stop Kiehl and his teammates from competing.

Kiehl threw four strong innings of three-run ball and left in a two-run game but he was outdone by Keystone starter Hart Fletcher. Fletcher threw 4 1/3 innings of one-hit ball as Keystone defeated Loyalsock, 6-2 to win the 8-10 baseball District 12 title Saturday morning at Volunteer Stadium.

“We came out (and) competed. I think last Saturday, our first game against them, I don’t think it would’ve mattered who it was against,” said Loyalsock manager J.C. Keefer. “We were very nervous and we weren’t sure what approach we were going to take. …But our kids were unsure of themselves and it didn’t take long to have some confidence and it’s fun. …We’re having fun and the main goal with, 8, 9, 10-year-olds is improving. We’ve improved in one week tremendously. So we’re going to improve throughout the summer and this is going to be a special group coming up through the next couple of years. It’s fun to be a part of.”

Fletcher didn’t have overpowering stuff as he struck out just two, but he hit his spots and relied on his defense to make plays. He worked quickly and efficiently, throwing just 61 pitches, including a 4-pitch second and an 8-pitch fourth. His only run given up, which was unearned, came in the third when Jeremiah Johnson’s one-out single brought Nolan Rall to third but a throwing error scored him to make it 2-1. But Fletcher retired six of the next eight batters and was taken out with one out in the fifth.

“That’s what his best quality is. In a big game, he’s a big-time pitcher,” Keystone manager Steve Shade said of Fletcher. “He’s an experienced 10-year-old. He’s played a lot of ball and he came to pitch today.”

Keystone’s offense wasn’t nearly as explosive as when it dropped 25 runs last Saturday due in part to Kiehl who gave up five hits and three runs. The young pitcher came back just a week after last Saturday’s loss and pitched valiantly and gave his team a chance to win.

“Tremendous job on this stage at Volunteer Stadium in front of a bigger crowd than we’re used to,” Keefer said. “He came out and pitched really well and that was the key to us holding them to six runs and he held them to three so a real tremendous job by our starting pitcher. He’s improved tremendously and he’s going to be a tough little player too.”

Though Keystone’s offense wasn’t as potent as usual, it only struck out twice and forced nine walks. It consistently put the ball in play and forced Loyalsock to make tough outs. It scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull away on an RBI single from Griffen Kersetetter and the other two runs were off a wild pitch and an error.

“Our team is built with speed and defense and some good pitching to go with it,” Shade said. “We just work on bunts, get the bunt down, it’s part of the game, make them field it and throw us out.”

Loyalsock 001 001- 2 3 3

Keystone 110 13x- 6 7 2

John Kiehl, Nolan Rall (5th) and Deryk Kulp. Hart Fletcher, Darius Shade (5th) and Watt Probst. W- Fletcher. L- Kiehl.

Top Loyalsock hitters: Jeremiah Johnson 1-3; Kellen Jackson 1-3 R; Jacob Baylor 1-2 RBI; Nolan Rall 0-1 walk, R.

Top Keystone hitters: Griffen Kerstetter 2-2 RBI; Nolan Cross 1-3 3B, 2 R; Jase Seltzer 0-0 3 walks, 2 R; Hunter Donley 0-0 sac bunt, RBI; Bryce Brungard 0-1 sac bunt, RBI