Jeff Hamilton lifts Neumann to comeback win over Muncy

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Muncy’s Max Rymsza (5) tags St. John Neumann’s Jeffery Hamilton (23) at third during a high school baseball game on Wednesday at Muncy. SJN won 6-3.

MUNCY — Jeff Hamilton will play college football at Misericordia. Football is this standout lineman’s future.

But right now he is a baseball player. He’s a pretty darn good one, too. And hours after signing his letter of intent to play at Misericordia, Hamilton proved it.

Hamilton went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and his two-out, two-strike, seventh-inning RBI single tied yesterday’s game at Muncy. Kane Wright then drew an RBI walk and Naz Smith belted a two-run double as St. John Neumann scored five seventh-inning runs and turned a two-run deficit into an exciting 6-3 win. JerVal Weeks-Shuler and Keon Burkholder combined on a four-hitter and Burkholder struck out eight in his four innings of relief as Neumann started 2-0.

Chalk this one up as quite a memorable day for Hamilton.

“I have a blast playing baseball,” Hamilton said. “This will probably be one of my last springs getting to play baseball with these guys and it’s one of the best things to do.”

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent St. John Neumann catcher JerVal Weeks-Shuler tries to get the ball in time at home as Muncy scores a run during Wednesday’s game at Muncy.

Ross Eyer pitched 5 2/3 brilliant innings of two-hit baseball for Muncy (2-1) before reaching his 100-pitch limit. Neumann went to work against the bullpen and had pulled within 3-2 following Burkholder’s one-out RBI single. Burkholder moved to second when Weeks-Shuler fouled out down the right-field line and third on a two-out error. That set the stage for Hamilton, a three-year starter who was among the team RBI leaders when Neumann won a program-record 15 games two years ago.

Hamilton fell behind 0-2, swinging and missing the first two pitches. Unfazed, Hamilton stayed poised, took a ball and then found a pitch he liked. The senior first baseman ripped it into center field, scoring Burkholder and tying the game. Ryan Thompson followed with a single to load the bases and Wright’s RBI walk gave Neumann a 4-3 advantage.

Hamilton gave Neumann a lifeline and the Knights roared back. Smith’s two-run double gave them a 6-3 lead as players literally jumped for joy in the dugout.

“Pretty much the approach was put the ball in play. Good things happen when you put the ball in play and I was just trying to get the runs in,” Hamilton said. “We’re always confident. You have to be in those situations. Our mindset was just pretty much let’s get the hits and get the runs in and win the ball game.”

“Jeff has been a part of this thing since he was a freshman starting for us and for him to step up as a senior is huge,” Neumann coach Cory Burkholder said. “For him to have the confidence to battle with two strikes, I just take my hat off to him. He’s learning to enjoy those moments as a senior.”

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent St. John Neumann’s Keon Burkholder (19) takes over as relief pitcher during a high school baseball game on Wednesday at Muncy. SJN won 6-3.

Neumann has learned the last few years to embrace these opportunities. Yesterday’s game was one Neumann so often lost in the past but its stellar 2019 campaign has this team believing it can win under any circumstance. That belief shined through during the seventh inning as Neumann batted around and delivered four clutch hits.

Burkholder was dominant in relief, scattering two hits and allowing no earned runs in his four innings. The hard-throwing right-hander gave Neumann the opportunity to come back in the seventh inning by stranding runners in scoring position with one out in the sixth. He was overpowering in the seventh, retiring the side in order and fanning two. Burkholder and Weeks-Shuler formed a potent combination and Weeks-Shuler struck out six in his three innings without allowing an earned run.

“That goes along with having fun. (Muncy) is a really talented team and they’re very well-coached so they’re not going to go away,” Cory Burkholder said. “They’re going to do everything they can to win so you have to work hard and hope for the best and sometimes the ball has to bounce your way and today it bounced our way a little bit”

Eyer did a fantastic job preventing Neumann from getting those bounces during his 5 2/3 innings. Hamilton’s first-inning sacrifice fly gave Neumann a 1-0 lead but that was all the damage it did against Muncy’s sophomore right-hander. A day after Muncy pitchers threw 228 pitches in a 12-12 suspended game against Benton, using up four pitchers, Eyer worked deep into the game even after throwing 44 pitches in the first two innings.

Eyer closed his performance with his eighth strikeout for the sixth-inning’s second out. He allowed just two hits, with one leaving the infield. In his first two high school starts, Eyer has surrendered three hits in 10 1/3 innings while striking out 17.

“We needed an outing like that. He really beared down,” Muncy coach Chris Persing said. “He started pounding the zone and he got into a rhythm for us. Obviously, he pitched well enough to win the game.”

Muncy scored three fourth-inning runs as it erased a one-run deficit and went up 3-1. Branson Eyer (2 for 4) provided the big blow, hitting a two-out, two-strike RBI single into left field. Freshman Kaydn Berry, who played a terrific all-around game, made it 3-1 when he scored on a wild pitch a few pitches later. Burkholder, however, settled into a groove after that, striking out the side in the fifth inning and looking untouchable in the seventh.

Like Neumann, Muncy is fairly young. Yes, it wanted to win yesterday’s game but it could get some valuable mileage from how it played out. The three seventh-inning relievers had never thrown a high school inning before this year and Muncy was still one out from beating a District 4 Class A title contender.

Neumann 100 000 5–6 6 3

Muncy 000 300 0–3 4 2

JerVal Weeks-Shuler, Keon Burkholder (4) and Caleb Reddy, Weeks-Shuler (4). Ross Eyer, Noah Confer (6), Chase Crawley (7), Kadyn Berry (7) and Gio Persun. W–Burkholder, (2-0). L–Crawley, (0-1).

Top Neumann hitters: Jeff Hamilton 3-3, 2 RBIs, run; Naz Smith 1-2, 2B, 2 RBIs; Burkholder 1-4, RBI, run; Kane Wright RBI; Naseer Dymeck 2 SBs, run; Weeks-Shuler 2 SBs, run. Top Muncy hitters: Branson Eyer 2-4, RBI, SB; Confer 1-2, run; Berry 1-2, run.

Records: Neumann (2-0, 2-0 Mid-Penn), Muncy (2-1, 2-1).


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