South Williamsport starting pitcher Billy Rummings did not play baseball last spring. Six new starters did not play much either.
Collectively, though, they understand the expectations. Others might be thinking South is rebuilding but the Mounties do not believe it. The names change each season, but the results do not.
South proved that again Saturday, thumping Hughesville, 10-0 in five innings. Rummings threw a one-hit complete-game in his first varsity start while Zach Staver, Tyler House and Zach Welter each delivered two hits. It was a performance as complete as it was impressive, coming against a highly-touted preseason team.
The Mounties were the only ones not surprised.
"We said new faces, new team, same program," South coach Shawn Finn said. "We told them, 'Regardless of losing what we did, we were a state playoff team and schools aren't going to lay down for you. You're going to have to play hard.' So far that's what they're doing against two really good teams."
South could not have started this season much tougher, playing 2012 District 4 Class AA semifinalist Central Columbia, with all but two starters back, and Hughesville in its first two games. It could not have started much better either.
The Mounties (2-0, 2-0 HAC-II) have won those games by a 22-0 margin, hitting well throughout the lineup, playing strong defense, receiving excellent pitching and running the bases well. South has one of District 4's premier winning traditions and this team expects to build on it.
"Everybody is saying we're rebuilding this year since we lost a lot of seniors but we're just trying to come out and say that we can still play well and win," Rummings said. "Coach Finn has won a lot of games so he knows what he's doing and we just have to help him out and keep it going."
"I definitely think we were the underdog coming in," Staver said. "We still have a target on our back because of last year's season but a lot of people around here are doubting us because of how young we are, but we're definitely a team and we play as a team."
Rummings and Staver set the game's tone. Rummings, a junior left-hander, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first with the second of his eight strikeouts. Staver then belted a leadoff double and scored the game's first run on Ryan Orgitano's RBI single. Pinch-runner Dominick Bragalone scored the first of his three runs on an error, making it 2-0.
South extended its lead to 5-0 in the third inning, scoring three times, the final two courtesy of House and Welter consecutive 2-out RBI singles. Orgitano scored another run, stealing home when South perfectly executed a first and third pickle play.
"That start was huge. Billy kept his composure and threw strikes," Staver said. "We definitely feed off each other. We come up with big hits when we need too. That's what a good team does."
Staver hit a RBI fourth-inning single that made it 6-0 and the Mounties scored four times in the fifth to inflict the mercy rule. House and Welter ignited the game-clinching rally with consecutive singles and Staver and Orgitano both were hit by bases-loaded pitches to end the game.
Hughesville (0-1, 0-1) has big expectations but struggled defensively, making five errors. Rummings also dominated, especially in the final four innings when he threw just 48 pitches. Only Jeremiah McCarty's two-out fourth-inning infield single prevented Rummings from throwing a no-hitter. Starting pitcher Sadiq Burkholder struck out eight in three innings and the Spartans have a lot of upside, but yesterday belonged to South.
"I was disappointed with the effort. It just seemed like we died once we got behind," Hughesville coach Casey Waller said. "It just seems like we didn't have that fire today and were flat and I'll take responsibility for that and it's frustrating. It's not the way I play the game and not the way I want guys who play for me to play the game."
After the first inning, Hughesville threatened only once more. Christian Fish reached on a fourth-inning strike-three wild pitch and reached second on McCarty's infield single. Rummings quickly stomped out the rally, inducing a groundout to Staver who earlier in the game robbed McCarty of a second-inning single.
South right fielder Joey Balawajder also made a nice play, tracking down a long Burkholder flyball in the fifth inning. It was a little thing, but the sum of those little things done skillfully added up to a big win. And an impressive statement.
"This team is the concept of team. It's all working right now early on and I'm very pleased with the outcomes," Finn said. "2-0 is great but we have a lot of work to do. We play in a tough conference with a lot of good baseball teams and we're not going to take anything for granted. These guys know that and they're going to keep working hard every day."
Year after year, the Mounties always do.
Hughesville000 00-0 1 5
South203 14-10 8 0
Sadiq Burkholder, Tyler Mitcheltree (4) and Brett Reitz. Billy Rummings and Justin Knee. W-Rummings, (1-0). L-Burkholder, (0-1).
Top Hughesville hitter: Jeremiah McCarty 1-2. Top South hitters: Zac Staver 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Ryan Orgitano 1-1, 2 RBI; Tyler House 2-3, RBI, 2 R; Zach Welter 2-3, RBI; Dominick Bragalone 3 R.
Records: South 2-0, 2-0 HAC-II. Hughesville 0-1, 0-1.