8-run inning helps Sock advance

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montoursville right fielder Maddy Probst makes a catch for an out in the second inning at Loyalsock on Friday in the District 4 Class AAA quarterfinals. The Lancers advance to face Bloomsburg in the semifinals.

No one on Loyalsock’s team was taking Montoursville lightly or overlooking the Warriors entering Friday’s game that was postponed from Thursday. The coaching staff knew they were better than a 9-9 record and pitcher Juliana Cruz definitely knew they were better than that.

So the Lancers weren’t exactly surprised when Montoursville jumped out to a four-run lead after the top of the first inning.

But like games all season, the Lancers didn’t worry or hang their heads to an early lead to a really good team. Instead, Loyalsock just slowly but surely chipped away at that lead inning by inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Lancers finally broke through. Trailing by three runs, Loyalsock batted around the order and scored eight runs thanks to eight hits and an error to go ahead against Montoursville for good en route to a 15-11 slugfest at Loyalsock in the District 4 Class AAA quarterfinals.

Loyalsock will face Bloomsburg in the final, a 3-2 winner over Athens.

The Lancers (18-3) started that bottom of the fourth inning with a key triple by Megan Reitz into left and from there, Loyalsock put together a string of six consecutive runners reaching before the first out was recorded by Montoursville (9-10). Grace Shaible then drilled a deep shot into center to bring in two runs that put the Lancers ahead for the first time all game.

“We came in the dugout and we knew that we didn’t want our season to end and our coach told us to pick it up,” Cruz said. “The game’s not over, it’s a seven-inning game. We battled and once one of us hit, it kind of was a snowball effect and we all started hitting.”

“Megan’s been hot the last two weeks. She is like leadoff, she hit a routine ground ball to short (in first inning) and beat it out. Our speed with her, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 hitters can all fly,” Loyalsock coach Mark Godfrey said. “We’re aggressive. We try to keep the pressure on them and hope they make mistakes. All season long it’s worked for us and hopefully it continues.”

Montoursville kept battling and cut the deficit down to three runs in the top of the sixth inning when Kaitlyn Klotz (3 for 4, home run, 5 RBIs, 2 runs) crushed a home run over the left-field fence for a three-run shot to also bring in Madison Shaffer (3 for 5, 2 runs) and MacKenzie Weaver, who reached to start the inning with a single and being hit by a pitch, respectively.

“They came ready to play. They wanted to play. They wanted to show everybody they’re better than 9-9. They hit well. We were well prepared,” Montoursville coach Mike Tate said. “We had a left-handed pitcher pitch all week to them just to see the other side of the ball and it really paid off big time. One bad inning. Defensively one bad inning and who knows.”

Montoursville came out aggressive right from the get-go, scoring four quick runs with only one out in the first inning, highlighted by a two-RBI triple from Jordan McCarthy (3 for 5, triple, 3 RBIs) and an RBI single by Klotz and RBI double from Jaylynn Cochran.

The Lancers answered in the bottom with two runs when Mari Houseknecht had an RBI single into left after Cruz (3 for 5, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) scored on an attempted pickoff attempt at second base to make it a 4-2 deficit.

Summer McNulty was solid for the Lancers, going 4 for 5 with a double, RBI and scoring three runs.

The Warriors added two more in the second to go ahead again by four, only for Loyalsock in the bottom of the third to score three and make it a one-run deficit. That’s when the Warriors once again answered in the top of the fourth with two runs to go up by three.

Anytime the Lancers started to cut down Montoursville’s deficit in those first few innings, the Warriors answered right back to build it back up.

“We didn’t underestimate them. They’re a good team despite what their record may have been,” Cruz said. “They can hit the ball and we knew it was going to be a battle when we came in here.”

“Usually once we get second or third time through lineup, if we’re not hitting in beginning, we start hitting the ball,” Godfrey said. “This week we knew MacKenzie was going to throw a lot of drops and curves, so I threw a lot of drops and a lot of curves so we were prepared for what she threw and we hit the ball. One through nine (hit) and we stayed aggressive.”

Neither team had any issue hitting the ball, as Loyalsock and Montoursville combined for 33 hits, 19 of which came from the Lancers. And while the game turned into a hitting clinic showcasing the offense, it was Montoursville’s right fielder Maddy Probst which stole the show from the defensive end.

Three times throughout the game, Probst made amazing catches to rob the Lancers of hits and runs, including robbing Mari Houseknecht of what would have been a home run to right-center that would have brought in two runs.

“Six years with her, she’s never, ever stopped hustling. No matter whether she fails at one thing, she succeeds at the next. We had her in outfield to start the season and it was best move we made as coaches was to move her to right field and she’s lived up to every ounce of the effort,” Tate said. “She’s made so many beautiful catches, two off the fence, and all year long since we moved her, she’s been running down short fly balls, deep fly balls. You name it, she’s been catching it. That’s how she’s played all year in right field.”

“I can’t speak enough about their right fielder, holy cow. She made it a close game,” Godfrey said, noting she took away about five possible runs with her catches.

Loyalsock increased its lead to four runs thanks to Sam Stopper (2 for 4, double, RBI, 3 runs) reaching with a one-out single and being driven in a batter later when Bella Barone hit a shot into left for a run.

Loyalsock 15,

Montoursville 11

(DISTRICT 4 CLASS AAA QUARTERFINALS)

Montoursville 420 203 0 — 11 14 2

Loyalsock 203 811 x — 15 19 0

MacKenzie Weaver and Jordan McCarthy. Juliana Cruz and Summer McNulty. W–Cruz. L–Weaver.

Top Montoursville hitters: Madison Shaffer 3-5, 2 runs; MacKenzie Weaver, HR, 2 RBIs, 4 runs; Jordan McCarthy 3-5, 3B, 3 RBIs, run; Kaitlyn Klotz 3-4, HR, 5 RBIs, 2 runs; Jaylynn Cochran, 2B, RBI. Top Loyalsock hitters: Juliana Cruz 3-5, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Summer McNulty 4-5, 2B, RBI, 3 runs; Sam Stopper 2-4, 2B, RBI, 3 runs; Bella Barone 2-4, RBI, 2 runs; Mari Houseknecht 2-4, 2 RBIs, run; Grace Shaible 2-4, 2 RBis, run; Jocelyn Cruz 1-1; Megan Reitz 2-3, 3B, BB, run.

Records: Loyalsock (18-3), Montoursville (9-10). Next game: Loyalsock vs. Bloomsburg, TBA.

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