Gee comes up big for Lancers
Those who do not know him or his story likely believe Derek Gee is completely healthy. That goes double when he makes circus catches and delivers RBI hits like he did Friday against visiting Jersey Shore.
Gee hardly looks like an athlete who has played with a torn ACL since October. But that is what he has done, helping the football team capture a league championship and the basketball team a district title. Now, Gee is starting every game, anchoring a quality outfield and providing consistent offensive production as Loyalsock surges into the playoffs. He no longer wears a brace and the only time Gee thinks much about his ACL injury is when he sees that brace resting in his car.
Gee again showed how tough and how valuable he is yesterday, hitting an RBI double, making a brilliant fifth-inning catch and helping Loyalsock blank Jersey Shore, 10-0, in six innings. Nick Barone went 3 for 4 with two RBIs while Dane Armson and Chase Cavanaugh combined on a three-hit shutout as Loyalsock (12-8) concluded its regular season on a five-game winning streak. It also took a big step toward potentially earning a District 4 Class AAA home quarterfinal Wednesday.
Take away Gee and that would not be the case.
“Derek is just such a great story. He’s a true leader on this team. Each of the seniors have their own way of dealing with leadership, but Derek always seems to be extremely level-headed. He’s just a warrior,” Loyalsock coach Zac Martin said. “He knows this is probably his last outing as a baseball player and he’s giving it everything he’s got. He’s just been a rock for us in centerfield. We can’t ask for anything more from him both on and off the field.”
Gee tore his ACL in Week 2 last August against Danville. He made it back late in the regular season and was vital to Loyalsock rallying and winning a share of the HAC-III championship. He figured that would be the end of his scholastic career, but he could not stay away from the basketball court and started playing toward the end of that season.
There was no waiting until the end for baseball. Gee has started every game and shows no ill-effects of that injury. He is running fast and hard, covering ample ground in center field and solidifying the bottom of Loyalsock’s order, driving in four runs over his last four games.
“The brace didn’t fit undnearth my pants that well and it was kind of bulky and I wasn’t making too much lateral movement so there really wasn’t too much need for it,” Gee said. “Sometimes I’m a little hesitant to push off on it, but it’s healed up pretty well over the course of the season. If it goes, it goes, but I’m going to try and make every play I can.”
He keeps doing just that. If yesterday was Gee’s final home game he made it a memorable one. His two-out RBI double was part of a third-inning rally that gave Loyalsock a 5-0 lead. He then thwarted a potential Jersey Shore rally two innings later, making a spectacular face-first diving catch.
Gee stretched out as far as he could, rolled head over heels and maintained possession. In that flash, Gee personified everything he is about and everything he provides Loyalsock.
“I got a good jump on it. It was coming in so I didn’t have to go side to side,” Gee said. “I was able to just dive into it and go for it.”
Loyalsock started collectively going for it following a 7-8 start and has transformed itself into a district title contender over the last week. The Lancers fueled their turnaround when they won last weekend’s Backyard Brawl and continued thriving this week, beating Pottsville and Jersey Shore. Armson extended his scoreless innings streak to 11, throwing five innings of three-hit baseball and he also went 2 for 3 with a double and RBI.
The Lancers hit well throughout the order and scored six two-out runs while building a 6-0 fourth-inning lead. Barone’s RBI triple, Armson’s RBI infield single and an error gave Loyalsock a 3-0 first-inning lead. Armson, Rees Watkins (2 for 3, 2 RBIs) and Gee hit three straight two-out doubles in the third as Loyalsock took a 5-0 lead.
“It’s been a really good season,” Barone said. “Everyone has played well and the chemistry is good. Now we’re going into the playoffs strong.”
Jersey Shore’s strength is in its future, but it did not back down against Loyalsock. The Bulldogs (3-17) repeatedly put pressure on Loyalsock over the first four innings, but Armson kept putting out the fires and stranded eight baserunners during that time. Cavanaugh stranded two more in the sixth. Watkins gave Armson a big left in the fourth inning when he picked a runner off first base for the first out. Take that throw away and Jersey Shore would have made it 5-1 and had the bases loaded with no outs.
Instead, Armson maintained his composure with the bases loaded and one out, recording a strikeout and inducing a pop-out. Eli Fishel, Sean Anderson and Logan Bailey had hits for Jersey shore and shortstop Eli Willits made a highlight-reel play in the fourth inning, running into left field, leaping and robbing Connor Watkins of a two-out single.
The big difference was Loyalsock consistently delivering the timely hits that eluded Jersey Shore. The Lancers went 8 for 17 with runners in scoring position and ended the game early, scoring four times in the sixth inning. Cooper Larson drew a leadoff walk and scored on Alex Schluter’s RBI single. Connor Watkins followed two batters later with an RBI single and Barone ended it when he drilled an RBI single into left field.
“We’ve had this goal and step one is done. Now it’s about playing for today more than ever,” Martin said. “We’ve kind of been in this playoff mode for a while now and the kids have responded really well. We just have to keep it going and show up every single day with energy and excitement, playing like it’s your last game.”
“We’ve been pretty close with these kids since the beginning of the year and everyone coming through now brings us closer together,” Gee said. “We’re really excited for each other when we do well so it’s easy to get behind each other.”
Jersey Shore 0
Jersey Shore 000 000–0 3 2
Loyalsock 302 014–10 10 0
Nate Ewing, Logan Bailey (5) and Nate Hinds. Dane Armson, Chase Cavanaugh (6) and Rees Watkins. W: Armson. L: Ewing.
Top Jersey Shore hitters: Eli Fishel 1-2, BB; Bailey 1-1, BB; Sean Anderson 1-3. Top Loyalsock hitters: Nick Barone 3-4, 3B, 2B, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Armson 2-3, 2B, RBI; Derek Gee 1-3, 2B, RBI; run. Watkins 2-3, 2B, 2 RBIs; Connor Watkins 1-4, 2B, RBI, run; Alex Schluter 1-4, RBI, run, 2 SBs.
Records: Loyalsock (12-8), Jersey Shore (3-17).