Slow start dooms Keystone as Warrior Run finishes with 5-3 win

Keystone’s Jase Seltzer looks up after tagging a runner at second base for an out during a Section 3 Major Baseball game against Warrior Run on Sunday.

SELINSGROVE–Zach St. Clair reached base for a second time as Keystone took on District 13 champion Warrior Run on Sunday afternoon at East Snyder Park.

He moved to third on passed balls, but was eventually picked off the base to end the fifth inning. It appeared Keystone would be able to score more runs, but the baserunning mistake ended the inning. Warrior Run’s defense would continue to play well as it finished off Keystone with a 5-3 victory to advance into the Section 3 major baseball championship on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Keystone will play in its first elimination game of the postseason as it will take on the winner of Roosevelt Trail or Orwigsburg later today at 5:30 p.m. at East Snyder Park in Selinsgrove.

“Today was very difficult, we never got out of it,” Keystone manager Brad Mahoney said. “It’s always nice to start out on top and today we didn’t. Gage (Laughner) pitched great. The defense only made one or two mistakes. Today the bats just weren’t there for us.”

Laughner pitched into the fifth inning, but just couldn’t overcome a three-run shot by Landon Polcyn in the first inning. It was the second day in a row Keystone trailed by three, but unlike its opening round win over Roosevelt Trail, it couldn’t rally to get a victory.

Keystone’s typically potent offense was sluggish throughout the game as it scattered five hits, but never really put any together.

The second inning continued to be kind to Keystone as a Caleb Mahony single and back-to-back doubles from Eli Bailey and Zach St. Clair helped it get two runs back. St. Clair’s double drove in both runners. He walked in his other plate appearances and was stranded both times.

Brayden Gower got the start for Warrior Run. Gower pitched to contact and used his off-speed stuff to keep Keystone’s offense at bay. He got a strikeout in the first and forced two ground outs.

“We learned a lesson with Danville,” Warrior Run manager Derrick Zechman said. “We let off the gas pedal and they taught us something that game. Ever since we’ve been preaching to play to win the inning. We jumped out to a lead against Danville, but we didn’t finish.”

Warrior Run looked focused Sunday throughout the contest against Keystone. The pick-off play to end the fifth fourth was a good example of Warrior Run’s commit to stay involved in the game.

“Plays like that are big in these types of games,” Zechman said. “We had a good play called and catcher made a perfect throw. The third baseman catches it and tags the runner. That was a big, big play, because who knows if we even out of that inning where it was.”

Warrior Run was able to get out of the inning and called on Chase Knarr to finish off one of the state’s top Little League programs in Keystone. It wasn’t easy.

Eli Bailey, who reached base all three times he batted, was hit in the shoulder to start the all-important top of the sixth. St. Clair then drew a walk before Laughner recorded the first out of the inning with a fly ball to centerfield. A fielder’s choice picked up the second out and Knarr fielded the final one himself.

“This is big,” Zechman said. “Keystone is a program that knows how to win. They are known all throughout the state. It was a rollercoaster. The three-run home run put us on top. They come in and answer with a two-spot, but our kids are getting confidence and they are believing. They are believing they can get it done.”

Warrior Run 5, Keystone 3

Keystone 020 100–3 5 0

Warrior Run 302 00x–5 6 0

Gage Laughner, Hart Fletcher, Jr. (5), and Eli Bailey. Brayden Grower, Landon Polcyn (4), Chase Knarr (6), and Griffin Harrington, Gabe Engel (4).

WP: Gower. LP: Laughner.

Top Keystone hitters: Eli Bailey 1-2, 2B, 2 runs; Zach St. Clair 1-1, 2B, 2 RBI. Top Warrior Run hitters: Griffin Harrington 2-3, run; Landon Polcyn 2-3, HR, 2 runs, 3 RBI.

Records: Keystone (1-1). Warrior Run (2-0).

Next: Keystone vs. Roosevelt Trail/Orwigsburg at East Snyder Park, Monday, 5:30 p.m. Warrior Run vs. Keystone/Roosevelt Trail/Orwigsburg at East Snyder Park, Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.