Warriors win 1st state game since 2006

SCRANTON — As Logan Ott settled his feet in the batter’s box, he took a quick peek behind him and saw Lakeland catcher Adam Retzbach already setting up for a pitch up in the strikezone.

The Montoursville sophomore left-hander prepared himself for an 0-2 high fastball. He got it and summarily deposited it beyond the right-field fence at Marywood University’s Pacer Field on Monday.

His first-inning, two-strike, two-out solo home run was the only run the Warriors needed in their PIAA Class AAA baseball opener against District 2 champion Lakeland. Ott threw five hitless innings and combined on a two-hit shutout with Owen Kiess as Montoursville won its first state playoff game since 2006, 8-0, over the Chiefs.

Montoursville advances to the state quarterfinals Thursday to play Oley Valley, a 4-3 winner over Conwell-Egan yesterday.

Playing without head coach Jeremy Eck, who was ejected from last week’s District 4 championship game, Montoursville used a patient approach at the plate to drive Lakeland starting pitcher Jake Hodorovich, a University of Virginia recruit, out of the game after just 3 1/3 innings as he reached his pitch-count limit. Ott’s home run in the first inning eased the tension among a Warriors team playing in its first state tournament game since 2010.

“That’s a pitch where you’re either going to strike out or you’re going to hit it really hard,” Ott said of his home run. “If you score first, you’ve got like a 90 percent chance to win the game. That first run is a big part of the game.”

“That settled everyone down,” Montoursville’s Ryan Kessler said. “It got the tempo going and set the tone for the game.”

A usually aggressive Montoursville was much more selective yesterday against Hodorovich, a pitcher who had allowed more than one earned run in a game just once this season. They waited out the hard-throwing right-hander as he struggled to control the strike zone. Hodorovich faced 18 Montoursville hitters yesterday, 16 of them saw at least five pitches during their plate appearance.

It was a change of approach for a Warriors team which has taken to jumping on early fastballs under Eck and not working deep counts. The plan worked, though, as Hodorovich tied a season-high with four walks and threw 21, 35, 21 and 23 pitches in his 3 1/3 innings to reach his pitch-count limit.

Hodorovich left with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning with the Chiefs already trailing 2-0. Kessler promptly unloaded them with a two-run single to right field. Kiess followed with a sacrifice fly, and Ott had a two-out RBI triple to close the frame. The five runs allowed by Hodorovich were a season high.

“The overall goal was to be selective and take your pitch when it’s there,” Montoursville acting head coach Craig Weaver Jr. said. “But you have to go in and make him work the count.”

Ott made the extra runs following his home run a moot point, dominating an offense hitting a collective .323 with his two-seam fastball. Ott struck out Division I recruit Matt Hayes, who was hitting .608 coming in, twice in two appearances.

The third, fourth and fifth hitters in Lakeland’s lineup — hitting a combined .533 coming in — were 0 for 6 against Ott with four strikeouts, and were just 1 for 9 in the game. Lakeland has been shut out in each of its last two state playoff appearances, losing 5-0 to Loyalsock last year.

The Chiefs haven’t scored a run in the state playoffs since the sixth inning against Bloomsburg on June 2, 2014, a drought spanning 15 innings.

“I knew they hadn’t seen the best teams coming in, so I could throw it hard right down the middle with two seams going outside and they couldn’t hit it,” Ott said. “Most kids in high school don’t want to hit that outside pitch.”

Montoursville 110 400 0 – 8 7 0

Lakeland 000 000 0 – 0 2 1

Logan Ott, Owen Kiess (6) and Jaxon Dalena. Jake Hodorovich, Dom Verrastro (4) and Adam Retzbach. W–Ott. L–Hodorovich.

Top Montoursville hitters: Ryan Kessler, 1-5, 2 RBIs, run; Owen Kiess, 1-4, 3B, 2 RBIs, run; Logan Ott, 2-2, 3B, HR, run, 2 RBIs; Gabe Phillips, 2-3, 2 runs; Dylan Bower, 1-4, RBI, run; Dylan Moll, 3 walks, 2 runs. Top Lakeland hitters: Nico Piraino, 1-3; Adam Retzbach, 1-3.

Records: Montoursville (18-2); Lakeland (18-2). Next game: Montoursville vs. Oley Valley, TBA.