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Rankey, Schurer combine on no-no for Loyalsock baseball

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Hughesville’s Dylon Pequignot is safe at first base as Loyalsock’s Nick Barone tries to make the tag in the second inning Monday.

HUGHESVILLE — His teammates broke a cardinal rule and started discussing the no-hitter Josh Rankey was throwing.

Rankey ignored them and others admonished those rule-breakers. Rankey also ignored the intermittent rain, a powerful lineup and any other distraction thrown his way. Everything else faded away and Rankey felt perfectly at ease.

Hughesville did not.

Rankey was untouchable for 6 1/3 innings and combined with Joeb Schurer on a no-hitter as Loyalsock defeated Hughesville, 5-0, Monday at Bodine Park. Rankey also reached base four times, as did Chase Cavanaugh, as Loyalsock (9-4) completed a regular-season sweep.

“I try to block it out. Some of my teammates mentioned it a few times and we were like, ‘No!'” Rankey said. “It’s definitely in the back of your mind but when you’re pitching I’m just thinking about the next pitch.”

That tunnel vision served Rankey well on a day when it looked like a game might not even happen because of forecasted rain. He threw a three-inning perfect game against Warrior Run last month, but considering the opponent yesterday, this was Rankey’s masterpiece. He struck out eight, walked three, stranded four runners in the third and fifth innings and commanded all his pitches.

Only the PIAA-mandated 100-pitch count rule could stop Rankey. He reached 100 after recording the seventh inning’s first out. In came Schurer to a pressure-filled situation. Schurer, though, was unaware Rankey had a no-hitter going. He did not learn of it until the team held its post-game meeting.

Following a walk, Schurer completed the no-hitter, striking out consecutive batters as Rankey watched from center field. A broken ankle suffered in Loyalsock’s second football game last fall threatened to end Schurer’s baseball season before it started. But he was there to finish off something special on the same field that Hughesville had beaten Loyalsock to win last summer’s four-team tournament championship.

“It was awesome,” Schurer said. “I know my job is to come in and close it out in clutch situations. That’s what I needed to do and I did it.”

“It’s a sigh of relief,” Rankey said. “I was feeling pretty good out there and I trust him up there. I knew he had it.”

Rankey retired the first five batters he faced on 17 pitches and had Hughesville (7-5) off-balance from the start. The Spartans had won four straight games, but Rankey skillfully spotted his two-seam fastball on the corners and mixed in a sweeping curveball as well as a well-timed change-up. Even when Rankey missed, he did not miss by much and his two-strike pitches consistently were well-placed.

Hughesville twice put two runners on, but Rankey ended those threats by inducing a fielder’s choice and collecting a strikeout. He needed just 13 pitches to retire Hughesville in order in the seventh, keeping him at 98 pitches and allowing him to face another batter in the seventh.

“We know what kind of pitcher he is and when he’s on he’s absolutely dominant,” Loyalsock coach Zac Martin said. “On a wet day like today for him to go out and do what he did and have total command against a very good lineup is very impressive.”

“He worked fast and he got a bunch of strikes,” Hughesville coach Chris Kish said. “He got them up, he got them down, and he got them all around.”

Often, no-hitters feature a sensational play which keeps intact and yesterday’s was no different. Cavanaugh made the play of the game, one Kish said is among the best he’s ever seen in the fourth inning. Carter Cowburn slammed what looked like a sure extra-base hit toward the right-field fence, but Cavanaugh fully extended his body, dove near the fence and made a spectacular catch in a 1-0 game.

Cavanaugh (2 for 2) has reached base in all eight at-bats against Hughesville and scored the game’s first run an inning earlier after being hit by a pitch and coming home on a two-out error. He then ignited a two run fifth-inning rally, hitting a lead-off single, stealing second and scoring on Matt Worth’s two-out RBI single. Cooper Larson (2 for 3) followed with a single and Worth scored on an error. Loyalsock produced four two-out runs and went up 5-0 after scoring two runs in the sixth, courtesy of two walks, a hit batter and five wild pitches.

And the way Rankey was throwing a five-run deficit might as well have been 50.

“I’ve played with him since I was young and he’s always getting better,” Schurer said. “He always hits his spots real well. It’s probably one of the top five times I’ve seen him throw.”

Loyalsock 001 0220 0–5 7 1

Hughesville 000 000 0–0 0 2

Josh Rankey, Joeb Schurer (7) and Cooper Larson. Dylon Pequignot, Carter Cowburn (6) and Jed Webb. W–Rankey. L–Cowburn.

Top Loyalsock hitters: Chase Cavanaugh 2-2, 2B, BB, 3 runs; Cooper Larson 2-4, 2B, Matt Worth 1-4, RBI, run; Rankey 1-1, 2 BBs; Kaden Rodarmel 1-3, run.

Records: Loyalsock (9-4), Hughesville (7-5).

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