Tyler House and Billy Rummings both were valuable starters last fall as the South Williamsport football team enjoyed its best season since 1997, going 10-2, romping to a league championship and reaching the District 4 Class A final.
Both players sweat out brutal two-a-day preseason practices and then endured the weekly hard hits practices and games produced. Despite all that, both still found a way to pitch. The multi-faceted athletes put in baseball time each week and worked hard to become breakout pitchers. They paid the price and never asked for time off.
Early this baseball season, both they and their team are reaping the benefits.
House and Rummings were brilliant last week, combining to throw 12 shutout innings as South defeated strong Central Columbia and Hughesville teams by a 22-0 margin. After standout pitchers Alex Carpenter, Brandon Gantz and Caleb Catherine graduated, a gaping void was left, but House and Rummings appear ready to fill it.
"Both of them have worked hard in the offseason to get here," South coach Shawn Finn said. "Tyler got in and did a lot of summer and fall work and I think he has a little chip on his shoulder and something to prove this year. We knew the potential of Billy. He's right where we want him to be. We're very pleased to have him on the team."
House was unable to throw much last year due to an arm injury. Rummings did not play at all, taking a break from the game but almost immediately regretting it. Last week, the two left-handers look like they missed no time at all. House threw five innings of scoreless baseball against Central before Rummings went the distance in a five-inning, 10-0, win over Hughesville. Together, they allowed only four hits.
Dr. Masse's Top 5
1. Loyalsock (0-0)
The Lancers make their season debut today, hosting Shamokin (1-0). Loyalsock has nearly every player back from last year's District 4 Class AA champion, in addition to some promising newcomers. Loyalsock plays four times this week.
2. Jersey Shore (2-0)
Pitchers Chris Glunk and Travis Eiswerth were brilliant last week, allowing just six hits and no runs in 3-0 and 7-0 wins over Mifflinburg and Danville. Glunk struck out 13 and Eiswerth surrendered just two hits in five innings. Jersey Shore has several offensive starters back from last year and the way those two pitchers threw is encouraging for the two-time defending District 4 Class AAA champions after Tellef Notevarp (9-0) graduated. Glunk also is helping offensively, hitting .500 through two games. He went 2-for-3 against Danville.
3. Williamsport (4-0)
The Millionaires went undefeated at the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a third straight year, winning four straight. Williamsport has several new starters under first-year coach Dave Howe but it is off to a good start, coming from behind to win the last two games and scoring 42 runs in four games. Four pitchers earned wins and six players had at least one multi-hit game, including Owen Lukens who opened his season by going 5-for-6. Steven Moon had three hits in a comeback win over Maple Grove, N.Y., and Joey Cassidy went 2-for-2 in a 9-8 comeback win over West Springfield, VA. The Millionaires are 11-0 in Myrtle Beach over the last three years. Williamsport makes its home debut, weather permitting, today against Danville.
4. South Williamsport (2-0)
Just like Rummings, outfielder Dominick Bragalone did not play last year, but has made an early impact. The sophomore has primarily been used as a courtesy runner, but has excelled on the bases, scoring six runs. He also stole a base against Hughesville and that was key to a three-run, third-inning rally. Senior shortstop Zach Staver has four RBIs from the lead-off position and Ryan Orgitano is 4-for-5 with seven RBIs.
5. Montoursville (1-1)
The Warriors have one of the area's deepest lineups and that was evident Saturday when they blasted last year's District 4 Class AAA runner-up Milton, 17-0, in four innings. Montoursville has 21 hits in two games, but much more effectively hit with runners in scoring position against Milton after stranding 12 baserunners in a 5-2 loss to Shikellamy. Andrew Null has tremendous power and launched a home run against Milton while going 4-for-4 and throwing a no-hitter. He has six hits in two games while Ryan Mondell has five. Curtis Miller is a versatile player and went 2-for-2 against Milton. Null and Pierce Ranck are tough pitchers and the Warriors have good depth so the ingredients are there for a solid season.
Player of the Week
Alex Worthington, Montgomery
The senior pitcher/shortstop is off to a torrid start. Worthington went 7-for-10 with a home run, three doubles, four runs scored and four RBIs in three games last week. He also threw a dominant two-hitter in a 5-1 win over Muncy which included 13 strikeouts.
Games of the Week
Loyalsock at South Williamsport
Jersey Shore at Montoursville
No way I can pick between these two outstanding rivalry games Friday. Loyalsock at South is a rematch of last year's District 4 championship thriller and a great game almost always is assured. Jersey Shore and Montoursville have won the last three District 4 Class AAA championships. One has to go all the way back to 2005 to find a year which at least one of these two perennial powers did not win a league title.
"We're just trying to come out and show we can pitch," Rummings said.
House showed promise as a sophomore two years ago and threw well against eventual District 4 champion in the 2011 District 4 Class AA semifinals. That qualifies him as the most experienced pitcher on a young staff and he looked up to the task against a Central team that has all but two starters back from a district semifinalist.
Rummings had no varsity experience prior to Saturday. The junior battled nerves and the strikezone in the first inning, loading the bases without allowing a hit. He ended that threat, though, and sailed from there, needing only 48 pitches over the final four innings. He allowed only an infield single and struck out eight.
"I had to work a lot during the offseason with pitching," Rummings said. "I wanted to come out and make a statement."
He and House both did as did Cody Nelson who threw two scoreless innings in relief against Central. The big sophomore also is being counted on to provide quality pitching this season and a staff that some thought might struggle, suddenly looks deep and loaded with potential.
Nobody at South is getting carried away by the good start. At the same time, those three pitchers combined for a few innings last year. To be throwing this well, this early could be an encouraging sign.
"We have some good pitchers, real good pitchers," Finn said. "If they're around the plate they're going to be tough."
Hughesville was ranked No. 3 in the area preseason rankings but made five errors in Saturday's loss at South. The Spartans managed just an infield single as well. Coach Casey Waller was most disappointed with the team's attitude but a blowout loss does not mean all things are lost. A year ago, Jersey Shore pounded Loyalsock 12-3 in the season opener and the Lancers lost just one more time en route to capturing a district championship.
If Hughesville learns from the loss and uses it as a wakeup call, Waller knows something positive can come from it.
"You can feel like you look good on paper and are ready to go, but you have to go out there and play the game," Waller said. "No matter what, you're going to have days like this and I'd rather have it at the beginning of the season than at the end. I still believe we'll be there at the end in the playoffs and stuff and we have the pitching to do that but we have to hit and play defense. We'll regroup and get back at it Monday."
Muncy pitcher Dawson Fox has performed well the last few seasons and his control has been key. Early in Muncy's opener against Millville, however, Fox had trouble locating his fastball. It started in warmups and did not get better once the game started as he hit two batters and Millville opened a 4-0 lead.
To remedy that, Fox started throwing the pitch he was locating, the curveball, early in the count. The backwards approach worked as he settled down and went the distance in a five-inning, 14-4 win.
"If you're comfortable with that, let's stay with it. Then try to work that fastball," Muncy coach Chris Persing said. "He just couldn't spot it early. When he was comfortable throwing the curve we said let's pitch backwards here for an inning and see if that gets you back on track and it did."
Fox is a steady athlete who is a three-year starter in baseball and who helped the basketball team reach states the last two seasons. A slow start does not rattle the senior and he kept his poise despite the rough start. Fox helped his cause by going 2-for-3 and has four hits in Muncy's first two games.
"Coach P always tells us to have mound presence. Dawson had mound presence," Anthony Barberio said. "He would turn away and get a little mad, but he kept his composure real good."
Lewisburg is looking like one of the area's surprise teams early. The Green Dragons thumped defending Class A Eastern Region champion Montgomery, 9-2, Saturday. Lewisburg (2-1) also has a quality win over Central Mountain ... Canton opened its season with a 6-3 win over Sayre in a rematch of last year's District 4 Class A semifinal. Garrett Wesneski and Emmett Watson struck out 12 and Josiah Bardo went 3 for 4 ... St. John Neumann's Nick Grieco went 2-for-2 with two RBIs in his varsity debut against Southern Columbia.
Masse may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.