South Williamsport wins repeat District 4 title

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette South Williamsport players celebrate after defeating Sayre, 2-1, in the District 4 Class AA championship game at Bowman Field.

As South Williamsport players and coaches huddled together and posed with another district championship plaque, the dark skies opened. It instantly started pouring, but not one person moved and all flashed wide smiles.

A monsoon could have hit and South would not have cared. This was its moment. This is was a moment forged through hard work, a relentless spirit and consistent clutch performances. Nothing was stopping this celebration.

And nothing was stopping South from making history Wednesday at Bowman Field.

Pete Sinibaldi hit a walkoff single and Tripp Breen threw a dazzling four-hit complete game as South edged Sayre, 2-1, and captured its second straight District 4 Class AA championship. The Mounties (16-4) became the first team in program history to repeat as champions and earned a spot in Monday’s state tournament. South will play District 2 champion Blue Ridge at a District 4 site.

“It feels good having two plaques up in the gym. That’s great,” Sinibaldi said. “It’s a great feeling just to get one. Getting two is 10 times better.”

“It’s unbelievable. I’m at a loss for words. It’s amazing,” Breen said. “Not a ton of people get to do this. It’s one of the best memories of high school for me, I can promise you that.”

South has established itself as not just District 4’s best Class AA team, but also one of its toughest. The Mounties have won each of their last five one-run games and maintained their composure entering the bottom of the seventh as the skies darkened and a looming thunderstorm threatened to suspend the game.

Breen (2 for 3) ignited the game-winning rally with a leadoff single before Landon Lorson bunted pinch-runner Tyler Trojan to second. Hunter Finn (1 for 2, 2 walks) was intentionally walked and Cole Brewer drew a four-pitch walk.

Then it was Sinibaldi’s turn. The senior shortstop took a strike before lacing a fastball into left field, scoring Trojan, clinching the championship and setting off a big celebration as jubilant teammates stormed from the dugout and chased after Sinibaldi.

“I started running in (after the hit) but once I started I could see them coming at me so I started running the other way, but someone caught my leg and took me down,” Sinibaldi said. “It was just a great feeling.”

“That’s awesome for these kids,” South coach Smokey Stover said. “They are giving us everything they have and we are getting everything out of them. These kids have come a long way.”

Breen weathered Sayre’s dangerous offense and South weathered both the unsettled weather as well as a talented opponent that had captured consecutive District 4 Class A championships before moving up this season. The game was delayed for 44 minutes in the bottom of the fifth when it was tied 1-1, but Breen kept dealing, South kept grinding and it delivered the kind of win that perfectly represents who it is.

Sinibaldi’s hit was the epitome of a timely hit. Had he been retired, there is no guarantee the game would have finished. Less than five minutes later, the already saturated field was nearly underwater as a thunder storm that lasted 30 minutes unleashed. At that point, South did not care if it rained for the next 12 hours. The Mounties had what they came for.

“We really didn’t let the weather effect us. We just kept playing and trying to get it done,” senior first baseman Logan Burkett said. “Most people in their careers don’t win one district title. Putting them back to back is pretty special.”

Breen and Burkett combined on the game’s pivotal defensive play in the top of the seventh. Quinn Hanafin was on second base with two outs when James Esposito hit a slow roller in between the mound and third base. Breen sprinted off the mound and fielded the ball and made a snap throw to Burkett who field a good catch on a ball inches from hitting the ground.

That gave South momentum entering the bottom half and the Mounties took it from there. Breen delivered yet another outstanding performance in a season defined by them, tying up a team that scored eight runs in its semifinal win against Bloomsburg. The St. Bonaventure-bound right-hander retired the first 11 batters he faced, struck out 10 and won his ninth straight start.

Breen was as efficient as he was filthy, throwing only 78 pitches in seven innings, including 59 for strikes. The right-hander walked none, went to a three-ball count just once and did not let the 44-minute delay impact him. In his last two district final appearances, Breen has thrown 13 2/3 scoreless innings, scattered seven hits and struck out 15.

“I was giving it every ounce of energy I had and doing everything I could. I knew I just had to keep duking it out,” Breen said. “I knew all I had to keep doing was throwing strikes because my guys ate everything up. They made great plays behind me. We came ready to play and the guys were all hyped.”

Ryan Rischoff showed that in the third inning when he slammed a leadoff triple into the left-center field gap. The sophomore was making his first start and delivered just the spark South needed, never breaking stride and hustling into third.

How big Rischoff reaching third was became apparent two batters later when Lorson hit a flyball to shallow center field. Rischoff hustled again, made a good slide and slipped under the tag while giving South a 1-0 lead.

“He’s been coming and coming and put it together last week. It was his first start in the district championship and he delivered,” Stover said. “Nothing bothers him. His swing has come a long way and his outfield play has as well. He’s doing everything right so he had to play today.”

Sayre broke through against Breen with two outs in the fourth inning when Hanafin hit a two-out single and scored on Brayden Horton’s RBI double. Breen, however, let just one runner move past first from there. He and his defense gave South a chance to win the game and the offense delivered in the most dramatic way.

South still wants more, but as the rain beat down on the Mounties and they celebrated another district title, that moment sure felt good.

“We know everyone can do what they can do to help out,” Burkett said. “It doesn’t happen very much, so to do it back to back is really extraordinary.”

South Williamsport 2,

Sayre 1

(DISTRICT 4 CLASS AA CHAMPIONSHIP)

Sayre 000 100 0–1 4 0

South 001 000 1–2 7 1

James Esposito, Quinn Hanafin (7) and Brayden Horton. Tripp Breen and Dom Harding. W–Breen, (9-1). L–Esposito.

Top Sayre hitters: Quinn Hanafin 2-3, run; Brayden Horton 1-3, 2B, RBI; Nick Ficcaro 1-2. Top South Williamsport hitters: Pete Sinibaldi 2-3, RBI; Breen 2-3; Ryan Rischoff 1-3, 3B, run; Hunter Finn 1-2, 2 BBs, SB; Luke Winner 1-3; Landon Lorson RBI.

Records: South (16-4), Sayre (11-9).

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