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Baseball notebook: All teams in Independent Summer League were winners

Hughesville captured the Independent Summer League championship Saturday, beating Warrior Run, 9-6, and Loyalsock, 11-3. Hughesville finished 13-1 and won its last eight games.

Really, though, all four league participants were winners this summer. Having the league, period, after COVID-19 erased the spring high school season was quite an achievement and created wonderful opportunities for all those invovled.

Hughesville coach Chris Kish initiated the league’s creation, and Loyalsock coach Zac Martin, Mill Hall coach Mike Kramer and Warrior Run coach Harold Raup also provided strong support. Together, the quartet helped give their teams some closure after all seemed lost.

“It was a great summer,” Kish said. “It was so much fun.”

“It was a great way to send the seniors off,” Hughesville pitcher/center fielder Devin Swank said after earning a save and win on the mound Saturday while also hitting a home run. “It helps the young guys, too. You have freshmen who never played high school baseball and they could come into their sophomore year knowing nothing about what high school baseball is like and this kind of gave them a taste.”

Hughesville featured seven players who were seniors last spring, so winning the championship helped them leave on a high. But it also provided the returning players valuable experience. That goes ditto for the league’s three other teams. All four teams consistently developed players throughout the summer, playing everyone and using them in different roles and different positions.

Time will tell if that gives those teams a boost come next spring, but it certainly does not hurt.

“We put so much emphasis on getting guys in and putting them in different positions and putting them in pressure spots and that only can pay off later,” Loyalsock coach Zac Martin said. “That was our entire team (Saturday). Everyone is back and they’ve played a lot of baseball this summer. If we can iron out some of the details I think we’re going to be tough moving forward.”

HEAVYWEIGHT

CHAMPIONSHIP

Kish woke up at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Before leaving to help lay the groundwork for a tournament that started at 10, Kish offered his wife a bold prediction.

“I looked at her and said ‘it’s going to be us and Sock,'” he said.

Many thought it would be Hughesville and Mill Hall in the final after both combined to win 20 regular-season games. That went double after Mill Hall built an early four-run lead against Loyalsock. A few hours later, however, as Kish walked to home plate, there was Martin greeting him.

Loyalsock turned that four-run third-inning deficit into a 9-6 win and seemed intent on pulling another upset while capturing the championship when it built a 3-0 lead in the top of the first against Hughesville.

Like it did last Monday in a comeback against Loyalsock, though, Hughesville remained unfazed and thundered back. Swank hit a lead-off home run and by the second inning, Hughesville went ahead to stay, breaking things open with three-run bursts in the third and fourth innings, collecting 13 hits.

“We always talk about family and the thing is a family can fight with each other, but as soon as someone picks on the family you better stick up for each other,” Kish said. “When we got up here it was like a bare-knuckled fight. They came out swinging and it was like haymaker after haymaker. We withstood it in the first round and we were just able to keep jabbing them.”

SCHURER THING

Loyalsock pitcher Joeb Schurer helped his team reach Saturday’s championship by dominating in relief against Mill Hall. The senior-to-be threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings against a strong offense, earning the win and providing a potential look at what he might do in 2021.

Schurer entered in the fourth inning and let just one runner reach second base. He struck out five, including each of the top three hitters in Mill Hall’s lineup.

Also a good shortstop, Schurer shined throughout the summer and has come back strong from an elbow injury that limited his pitching opportunities in 2019. Healthy again, Schurer provided the shutdown pitching Loyalsock needed after it scored seven runs in the third and fourth innings while turning a 4-0 deficit into a 7-4 advantage.

“He’s going to be a big-time arm for us. He’s hit the weight room hard and his arm has come alive,” Martin said. “Joeb has been an absolute leader for us this summer.”

AWARD TIME

Saturday felt a lot like the Backyard Brawl and was a lot of fun. Here are some standouts from both those games and the season.

Loyalsock Tournament MVP — Matt Worth: The left fielder was raking in both games, going 4 for 8 with a home run and four RBIs. Worth sparked the Loyalsock comeback when he slammed a third-inning lead-off home run. Loyalsock scored six times that inning and batted around with Nick Laubach adding a two-run home run. Worth produced multiple hits in both games and his first-inning RBI single put Loyalsock up 2-0 against Hughesville.

Hughesville Tournament MVP– Ian Gagliano: This was a tough one with Swank and Jacob Corson also making excellent cases. Swank entered in the sixth inning with two runners on base and no outs against Warrior Run in the semifinals. He struck out the next three batters on nine pitches, adding two more strikeouts in the fourth before throwing five strong innings against Loyalsock and adding a home run.

Corson homered twice against Warrior Run, added three more hits against Loyalsock. He might have been robbed of a third home run on a ball that appeared to go over the fence in the final but that was ruled to have rolled under it.

Still, going 6 for 6 in two games presents a pretty ironclad MVP case. Gagliano went 3 for 3 in both games. He scored and drove in a run against Loyalsock while playing outstanding defense at second base.

Independent Summer League MVP — Jacob Corson, Hughesville: Bucknell is getting quite a player. Corson was a force all summer and was at his best in Hughesville’s three biggest games, homering three times and producing nine hits against Mill Hall, Warrior Run and Loyalsock.

An excellent leader, Corson delivered multiple hits nearly every game this summer, played terrific defense at shortstop and was tough on the mound, closing out the championship with two scoreless innings. He also threw a complete game in a key midseason win at Mill Hall which helped Hughesville earn the top seed and was a great Jordan Aderhold catch from going 4 for 4 in the championship.

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