South’s season comes to an end to Bellwood-Antis

SOUTH CENTRE TOWNSHIP — After running track last year, South Williamsport senior Gideon Green gave baseball one last chance.

It will go down as one of the best decisions the Shippensburg-bound linebacker made during a memorable scholastic career. Just imagine what Green would have missed.

South came light years from where it started its 2018 baseball season and captured its first District 4 championship since 2002. The journey ended Monday as Bellwood-Antis defeated South, 5-1, in the opening round of the Class AA state tournament.

But what a ride it was.

“Being the first team in 16 years to win a district championship has been phenomenal and these guys have been phenomenal,” Green said after going 1 for 2 with a walk. “It was amazing. I wouldn’t want to end my senior season any other way.”

South (14-7) fought hard Monday, but pitcher Travis Luesmann struck out 11 in six brilliant innings, while Mark Stewart escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh inning, bringing the curtain down on South’s comeback season.

The Mounties opened the season 0-2 and allowed 23 runs in those games. Instead of sulking, they fought back, won 14 of their next 19 games and defeated Wellsboro in a rematch of last year’s title game for that elusive championship.

“They’re all really good kids. They’ve come a really long way,” South coach Smokey Stover said. “We were not very good at the start of the season but they’ve come a long way and started believing in themselves.”

It stayed that way throughout the game. Bellwood-Antis (19-4), which plays either Camp Hill or Northwest in Thursday’s quarterfinals, scored a run in the first inning and two more in the fourth, taking a 3-0 lead. Hunter Finn’s two-out RBI double in the fifth scored Cole Brewer from first and made it 3-1, but Ian McFarland answered with a two-run single in the sixth as Bellwood-Antis extended the lead to, 5-1.

South had one last comeback in it. Dom Harding drew a lead-off walk, Ashton Martin was hit by a pitch and Finn walked. Just like that, the tying run came to the plate with no outs and the winning run was on deck.

Almost just as quick, the rally ended. Mark Stewart recorded a strikeout and then induced a game-ending double play as Bellwood-Antis clinched its third state tournament win in two seasons. South went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“We had our chances. When we had them we couldn’t get the hit,” Stover said. “It was disappointing for them but their pitcher was really good.”

“Every inning we were going to fight and come back from it,” Green said. “When the bases were loaded everybody thought we were going to come back and win. Some things happen and some things don’t and it just didn’t happen.”

Luensmann had a lot to do with that the first six innings. The sophomore right-hander throws hard his off-speed stuff was so nasty that Green said South had trouble telling the difference between it and his curveball.

Tripp Breen did all he could to give South a shot at the win and battled hard for 4 2/3 innings, not allowing an earned run and striking out seven. Breen held Bellwood to hitting 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and finished his tremendous season with a district-best 10 wins and 101 strikeouts.

Logan Burkett was effective in relief of Breen and worked a perfect seventh inning, giving South one last shot at a comeback. Both pitchers are back next season and maybe what looked like an end Monday was just a start.

“How we came together at the end was great. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but we fought the whole game and everybody wanted to win,” Green said. “Having this team to play along with was a great way to end the year.”

Bellwood-Antis 100 202 0–5 7 1

South 000 010 0–1 5 2

Travis Luensmann, Mark Stewart (7) and Jack Showalter. Tripp Breen, Logan Burkett (5) and Dom Harding. W–Luensmann, (7-1). L–Breen, (10-4).

Top Bellwood-Antis hitters: Stewart 2-3, R; Nick Plank 2-2, BB, 2 R; Ian McFarland 1-3, 3 RBIs. Top South hitters: Hunter Finn 1-3, 2B, BB, RBI; Ben Johnson 1-3; Gideon Green 1-2, BB; Luke Winner 1-3.

Records: Bellwood-Antis (19-4), South (14-7).