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Tri-Town Classic is a fun annual tournament

It does not feature the rich tradition the Backyard Brawl does and it is not played at Bowman Field.

Still, the Tri-Town Classic is becoming a fun, yearly tournament and is doing a nice job settling in as Southern Lycoming County’s answer to the Backyard Brawl which features Williamsport, Montoursville, South Williamsport and Loyalsock.

The third Tri-Town Classic is coming Saturday and again features three Southern Lycoming County rivals in Hughesville, Muncy and Montgomery. North Penn-Mansfield replaces Warrior Run as the fourth team and makes this a fearsome foursome of teams who have built quality traditions and who share postseason expectations.

The action starts at 10 a.m when Muncy hosts Montgomery in a semifinal which doubles as the first of their Mid-Penn games. At the same time, Hughesville will host North Penn-Mansfield at Bodine Park in a rematch of last year’s District 4 Class AAA quarterfinal. The consolation and championship will begin about 45-60 minutes following the semifinal’s last game game concludes with Muncy playing its second game on its field and Hughesville its second on its field.

Hughesville (5-1) has captured the first two championships, defeating Montgomery in the final each time. The Spartans won a hard-fought quarterfinal against North Penn-Mansfield (5-3) last May and will be facing a team which has scored 10 or more runs in each of its wins while adding six against District 4 Class AAAA Athens last Thursday. The Tigers are young, but dangerous and Alex Davis and Cooper Shaw are two of the district’s top freshmen this season. Catcher Cam Fabian is having a big season offensively and defensively and both Derek Litzelman and Karson Dominick have been strong in the middle of the lineup.

North Penn-Mansfield won three straight games before losing to Athens and highlighted that stretch by overcoming a six-run deficit and defeating Troy, 14-8 last Wednesday. Five players produced two hits in that victory.

Muncy (6-1) is seeking revenge after losing to Montgomery in the previous two semifinals. The Indians bounced back strong last week after dropping their first game to defending District 4 Class AA champion Sayre, downing Canton, 3-1 and Millville, 15-3. It is early but Montgomery needs this game more for than just local bragging rights after losing three straight games last week and dropping to 1-3.

How these four teams handle their pitching with multiple games prior to Saturday will be a development to watch as well. Ultimately, who captures this championship might come down to who features the deepest pitching staff.

The fun thing about this year’s tournament is there is no clear favorite. The semifinals are evenly matched; pick whatever matchup you want for the final and consolation and those games look like toss-ups as well.

What this tournament lacks in history it is making up for in excitement. The Backyard Brawl has become a special community event, but do not sleep on the Tri-Town Classic.

This is becoming must-watch yearly tournament, too.

MOVING FORWARD: A year ago Williamsport did not win its third game until halfway through the season. The Millionaires cut that timetable in half, rallying to beat Punxsutawney, 5-4 last Wednesday. They also are a run from being 4-1, so this certainly is a program making big strides, especially with the pitching vastly improved from a year ago.

Williamsport (3-2) also is showing good fight and has come from behind twice to win games. The Millionaires overcame a two-run deficit against Punxsutawney as Cadyen Robertson went 2 for 2 and hit a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning, scoring Xavier Taylor. Sophomore Deacon Brown had two hits and Dallas Griess and Adam Aldenderfer each doubled. Joey Signor and Owen Berry combined on a five-hitter, continuing their impressive starts.

Signor has thrown well against undefeated Selinsgrove and Punxsutawney and Berry has both a win and save, while allowing no runs in five innings. Kydreece Burks and Griffin Vollman also have provided quality starts, so things are looking up for a team which current sits atop the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA standings.

BREAKING THE ICE: Following a string of tough losses, Jersey Shore broke through Thursday against Shamokin and gave first-year coach Sadiq Burkholder his first victory, winning, 12-2 in five innings. The Bulldogs (1-4) were a hit or two from wins against Shikellamy and Mifflinburg and took out their frustration on Shamokin, pounding out eight hits, making no errors and closing the game with four scoreless innings. Sophomore Jerrin Loomis helped drop the hammer on Shamokin with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out three.

Jersey Shore is coming alive offensively and Tyler Bauder has been a key reason why, producing multi-hit games in consecutive contests. Cayden Hess tripled and scored twice against Shamokin, while Loomis and Conner Davis each had hits, runs and RBIs. The record might not show it, but Jersey Shore is a team which can be dangerous moving forward and getting that first win could give the Bulldogs the confidence they need to make their move.

EXTRA BASES: Ross Eyer was perfect from the second inning on in a 3-1 win against Canton, retiring the last 18 batters he faced in Muncy’s 3-1 win. Eyer struck out 13 and Noah Confer went 4 for 4 as the Indians rallied from a 1-0 deficit. A day later, Eyer’s cousin Branson led off the game at Millville with a home run and struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings as Muncy won 15-3. Braydon Kamerer doubled twice in that win and his brother Cameron added two hits … Canton bounced back from the Muncy lost and won consecutive games against Millville and Williamson. Sophomore Holden Ward went 2 for 2 with a double and three runs in the comeback win against Williamson Cooper Kitchen added three RBIs and Weston Bellows homered in the Millville victory … Cowanesque Valley broke out in a big way against Williamson, collecting 20 hits in a 19-3 victory. Catcher Mike Sipps went 4 for 5 with four RBIs and Julian Francis was 4-4 with two doubles. Kade Sottalano homered and Tucker St. Peter drove in four runs for last year’s District 4 Class A runners-up … Speaking of Class A, last year’s District 4 champion, St. John Neumann, is hoping to play for the first time in 10 days today at Wellsboro. The Knights have won two straight but inclement weather denied it the opportunity to play last week … Today’s opponent scored 34 runs in three games last week, piling up 27 hits in wins against Northeast Bradford and Towanda. Cameron Brought went 5 for 7 with six RBIs in those games while Caden Smith was 6 for 9 with seven RBIs.

Dr. Masse’s Top Five

1. South Williamsport (4-0): Rain wiped out a showdown of unbeaten teams Saturday when South Williamsport was going to play Central Columbia, so South settled for a strong week in which it ouscored two opponents, 20-1. Pitchers Landon Lorson, Makai Day and Grant Bachman have been dominant, allowing just one run in the last four games. Lorson struck out 13 in six innings of a 9-0 win at Cowanesque Valley before Day and Bachman combined on a one-hitter in Thursday’s 11-1 win against Montgomery. Lorson has three RBIs in each of South’s four games and third baseman DJ Gantz is enjoying a big breakout season. Gantz is hitting .462 and went 3 for 4 with a career-high four RBIs, helping South score 10 runs in the last two innings to break open a close game against Montgomery.

2. Loyalsock (4-0): Since rallying to defeat defending District 4 Class AAAA champion Midd-West in its opener, Loyalsock has not been tested much, outside of a suspended game against Hughesville. That changes in a big way starting today with the next five games against Southern Columbia, Mount Carmel, Sayre, Central Columbia and Midd-West, all teams who either won or played in district finals a year ago. The Lancers are building pitching depth to navigate that field and a young staff has surrendered just seven runs in its last three games–eight if you count the one it leads against Hughesville 3-1 in the fifth inning. Colin Berger is 2-0 and Brendan Clark threw four innings of two-hit baseball with six strikeouts in his first start against Milton.

3. Central Mountain (4-1): Speaking of deep rotations, Central Mountain has one of the area’s most complete. Better yet for the Wildcats, most of them are underclassmen. Brady Myers and Gabe Johnson combined on a five-hitter in a comeback win against Danville a day before Chase Brush and Levi Schlesinger surrendered just five hits in 12 innings in a 1-1 game suspended due to darkness against undefeated Selinsgrove. This is a young team overall and Central Mountain started just one senior in its first loss Friday against Midd-West. Starting 4-1 while replacing some of the standout players from last year’s Class AAAAA state semifinalists is encouraging for a team which has a lot of room to grow as the season continues.

4. Montoursville (4-1): The Warriors went nine days before playing and then went 3-0 in four days last week to jumpstart their season. Montoursville rallied from deficits for hard-fought victories against Waverly, New York and defending HAC-I champion Shikellamy after pounding Shamokin, 17-0 in four innings. The Warriors are receiving stellar pitching and have won four straight, but a lack of success the last two games hitting with runners in scoring position is an issue they will be working on correcting. Catcher Cael Frame has made a big leap forward this season and has hit safely in four straight games. He went 4 for 7 with two doubles in last week’s victories. Grayson Rinker and AJ Llorente scattered five hits in an outstanding showing in Thursday’s 3-1 win against Waverly. The Warriors have allowed just 5 runs in their four wins.

5. Hughesville (5-1): Central Columbia handed Hughesville its first loss in last Monday’s showdown of unbeatens, but the Spartans put together an outstanding comeback performance, defeating surging Mount Carmel, 5-2 four days later. Hughesville scored runs in each of the first five innings, played error-less defense and produced timely hitting while snapping Mount Carmel’s five-game winning streak. The Tornadoes had been scoring runs in bunches and routed Midd-West, 9-3, the previous day, so Jed Webb, Austin Gray and Carter Cowburn scattering seven hits was especially impressive. Three different players produced RBI hits and Jackson Bower went 2 for 4 with a double. Dylan Farnsworth also doubled and is hitting .412 with seven runs scored, good for second on the team.

Players of the Week

Gio Persun, Muncy and Maddix Dalena, Montoursville: Persun was a hitting machine in Muncy’s two wins, going 6 for 7 and reaching base eight times in nine plate appearances. The senior outfielder went 4 for 4 with a double, three RBIs and three runs against Millville and has produced multiple hits in three of his last four games. He also has upped his on-base percentage to .491. Dalena was overpowering on the mound in two performances, going 2-0 and not allowing a run in eight innings. The Connecticut-bound pitcher surrendered just two hits and overpowered Shikellamy in a sensational relief performance Saturday, throwing five scoreless innings and striking out 13. Dalena fanned seven in three innings at Shamokin and also hit two home runs in the first two innings, producing four runs.

Game of the Week

Jersey Shore at Williamsport: Burkholder returns to where he began his high school career Thursday at Logue Field when the Millionaires host Jersey Shore. These rivals have played some excellent games over the years, including last year when Williamsport won a back and forth contest 8-6 in which Dallas Griess hit two home runs.

–Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse

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