Montoursville’s Kiess dominant again despite rough warm-up

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montoursville’s Logan Ott rounds third base as head coach Jeremy Eck looks on during Monday’s game at Jersey Shore.

JERSEY SHORE — Owen Kiess looked and felt horrible as he warmed up Monday. This is becoming a recurring theme.

But so is Kiess dominating once the game starts.

Kiess is turning ugly warm-ups into pitching masterpieces and the Montoursville senior delivered his best one Monday. Kiess threw a complete game three-hitter, struck out a career-high 12, and added two hits as Montoursville thumped Jersey Shore, 8-1, in a battle of Heartland Conference champions. The right-hander threw his second consecutive complete game and has surrendered just seven hits in those wins. Jaxon Dalena added two hits and four RBIs and Montoursville (11-2) won its sixth straight game.

“I couldn’t throw any strikes in the pen and I was kind of scared,” Kiess said. “But when I came out in the first inning, I knew I was locked in and I knew they couldn’t touch me.”

“His last two starts he didn’t look good in the bullpen. (Pitching coach) Mike (Mussina) has come to me both times saying, ‘I don’t know, he’s not looking great,'” Montoursville coach Jeremy Eck said. “He just gets out there and figures it out.”

Jersey Shore (11-3) had a better chance solving advanced calculus problems than it did Kiess. The right-hander had total command of all three pitches, brilliantly spotted them and had the HAC-I champions befuddled all afternoon. He retired 15 of 16 batters between the first and fifth innings, recorded at least one strikeout in all seven innings and struck out four consecutive hitters between the fourth and fifth innings.

Through the first five innings, Kiess threw only 61 pitches and never went to a three-ball count. The only time he ran into trouble came in the sixth inning when the first three batters reached on an error and two walks. A few Bulldog fans started chirping at Kiess at that point, but he had the last laugh. Mac Griswold hit an RBI fielder’s choice before Kiess struck out the next two batters and quickly stifled the threat. That also effectively ended the game’s competitive phase.

Minus the three singles, Jersey Shore rarely even fouled a ball hard off Kiess. His fastball was popping and Kiess had Jersey Shore hitters chasing at his curveball and especially his changeup. It was the third time in four starts, Kiess allowed two runs or fewer.

“I always come out and think I’m better than you. I’m here to beat you,” Kiess said. “You just have to have that mentality to be a success, so every time I step out on the mound I’m going to try and shove it down your throat.”

“He is a go-getter. If you give him an inch he’s going to take a foot. that’s his mentality in all aspects of the game,” Eck said. “He has that killer instinct. Early on, he tasted blood. He was in a groove and he went right after them.”

Dalena is doing the same thing. The sophomore catcher opened the season as Montoursville’s lead-off hitter, but was moved to clean-up three games ago. He has flourished in that No. 4 hole, going 8 for 10 with seven RBIs.

Dalena continued his hitting barrage yesterday and provided the game’s pivotal hit, slamming a three-run second-inning double that put Montoursville up, 4-0. Dalena also delivered a two-out infield single in the first inning. Dylan Moll walked and John McCarthy produced the game’s first run when he was hit by a pitch. The three-run double also came with two outs after Brandon Dyer (3 for 4), Kiess (2 for 3) and Logan Ott (2 for 3) all singled. The Warriors scored six of their eight runs with two outs and Dalena added another RBI in the sixth inning when he hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field and gave Montoursville a 7-0 lead.

“He’s been smashing the ball the last couple games. That’s huge for him because he was down on himself,” Kiess said. “For him to move down there and get high production out of him is a real confidence booster and it makes for smooth sailing for us as a team.”

Jersey Shore rode a rather smooth ride to a second straight HAC-I championship and its only losses entering Monday came by three combined runs. The Bulldogs struggled in all facets against Montoursville, making four errors and trailing 8-0 at one point. It was only the second time this season Jersey Shore allowed more than five runs in a game.

The good news for the Bulldogs is they still hold District 4 Class AAAA’s top seed. Jersey Shore also can win the outright HAC-I championship if it defeats Selinsgrove in its final league game. So expect the Bulldogs to flush yesterday’s game right from their minds.

“We told them when they walked out the gate that Montoursville is over with and we move on,” Jersey Shore coach Mike English said. “Some days you have it, some days you don’t and you just turn the page. Williamsport is a big game (Wednesday) and we’re looking forward to that. Want to see how we compete against some of these higher caliber teams going into the playoffs. We’re going to be tested, but it’s going to help us get ready for the playoffs. We just have to take care of business on a regular basis.”

Montoursville 130 112 0 — 8 9 1

Jersey Shore 000 001 0 — 1 3 4

Owen Kiess and Jaxon Dalena. Timmy Saar, Brandon DePasqua (5), Aaron Best (7) and Dylan Young.

W–Kiess, (5-1). L–Saar, (2-3).

Top Montoursville hitters: Dalena 2-3, 2B, 4 RBIs; Kiess 2-4, 3 R; Logan Ott 2-3, RBI, 2 R; Brandon Dyer 3-4, R. Top Jersey Shore hitters: Koby Peacock 1-2, BB; Nate Ewing 1-3, R; Eli Willits 1-3.

Records: Montoursville 11-2. Jersey Shore 11-3.