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South ends long drought; captures Backyard Brawl Championship

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette South Williamsport players celebrate at Bowman Field after winning the 2021 Backyard Brawl.

No South Williamsport baseball player could remember the last time its program captured the Backyard Brawl championship. That’s because no players were alive then.

George W. Bush was still in his first term as president and 3 Doors Down held the No. 1 song in America back in 2003 when South last secured area bragging rights. For the previous 17 years being the Backyard Brawl champion only existed in Mountie players’ dreams.

Saturday at Logue Field dreams became reality and the field’s smallest team achieved something mighty big.

Landon Lorson and Sam Hostrander combined to shutout Loyalsock 1-0 in the semifinals before South produced 12 hits in the final as it defeated Montoursville, 12-6 and captured that long elusive Backyard Brawl championship. Ryan Rishcoff hit the game-winning single against Loyalsock and went 4 for 4 in the final while Grant Bachman shined in three innings of relief as South (12-3) beat the previous two champions and made a major statement about how good it can be.

“It’s crazy. I remember playing here my freshman year and it hurt losing the championship to Sock, so it’s great to get them in the first round and then to play a great game here in the championship,” Lorson said. “It’s awesome.”

“Coming into it as the smallest school is something that motivated us. We played as a team,” Connor Sauers said after going 2 for 4 with two RBIs and two stolen bases. “We hadn’t won it in 18 years, we wanted it more than everybody and I think that really showed. To win that trophy is great.”

Montoursville defeated Williamsport, 12-3 in the semifinals. There was no consolation game after Friday’s rainout forced a condensed schedule Saturday. Loyalsock and Williamsport will try playing that third-place game sometime in the season’s final two weeks.

South, a Class AA school with 20 varsity and JV players combined, took down 3A Loyalsock and 4A Montousville teams which have combined for five state championships. The Mounties never trailed at the tournament, Rishcoff broke a sixth-inning tie against Loyalsock, and they scored four sixth inning runs after Montoursville (10-5) had scored twice and tied it, 5-5 in the fifth.

South scored two runs in the top of the first, two in the second after Montoursville and relied on players throughout the roster to make big pitches, deliver clutch hits and make key plays at all the right times. That included in the bottom of the fifth when catcher Trent Hampton hustled after a wild pitch, threw to Bachman who had sprinted off the mound and cut down the go-ahead runner.

South built on that momentum, scoring four times in the sixth, twice on wild pitches and then off Sauers two-out, two-run single. Bachman struck out five in three innings of relief, including with runners on the corners and the tying run at the plate in the sixth. South produced seven two-out runs, eight starters reached base and every player coach Casey Waller used had his fingerprints on that championship performance.

Before taking the field for the seventh inning in the final, South broke its huddle by yelling, ’18!’ It took 18 years to reclaim that Backyard Brawl crown and, together, the Mounties produced a fantastic effort.

“Everybody on our team did great,” Sauers said. “It was not anyone individually, it was a whole team effort.”

“I got chills walking out to talk to the team after the Loyalsock game and same thing after this (final). I just hope some of those guys get the same thing and I think some of the guys are starting to feel it,” Waller said. “You could see when Grant struck that guy out to end the (sixth) inning our guys came out. Before everyone would have sat in dugout and not come out. They’re starting to be unselfish and be more about the team and less about the individual accolades.”

Nolan Kutney ignited a two-run fifth inning rally which tied the game when he hit a leadoff home run. Dylan Moll tied it three batters later with an RBI single, but Bachman slammed the door on the rally, recording a strikeout with the bases loaded before making the tag when Moll (2 for 4) tried scoring on the wild pitch.

Kutney had a big day and hit homered and doubled in each contest. He drove in four runs and made three diving catches, two which saved three runs. Maddix Dalena also had two hits in the final and Josh Burger played great defense against Williamsport, saving a run with a spectacular stop while also going 2 for 4 with and RBI and two runs.

“We knew Williamsport didn’t have everybody playing, but they still battle, and they still have some guys that can swing it and we came out and we played great baseball,” Montoursville coach Jeremy Eck said. “We had some timely hits; we played great defense.”

Montoursville, however, made six errors in the championship and South made it pay. South also twice threw out runners at third and home to end innings and received a big lift from freshman Noah Turner who threw three strong innings in relief, helping South take a 5-3 lead into the fifth inning.

“You can’t come out in a big game like this and make six errors. We don’t want to give that game away tonight, but you tip your cap to them. They did a great job,” Eck said. “They did everything they had to do to beat us. They executed and we didn’t. It’s as simple as that.”

Lorson and Loyalsock’s Chase Cavanaugh staged a classic pitcher’s duel in South’s semifinal win. Cavanaugh went the distance and took the hard-luck loss when Rishcoff scored freshman Kaden Shay from second with his opportune two-out single. Lorson worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and Hostrander earned the save, leaving the winning runs on base in the seventh.

“I just trust Coach Waller. He puts me in a position to win every time. He puts me in a position to succeed so I trust that man with my life and I roll with what he says,” Lorson said. “I believed in the guys behind me. They play excellent defense and I believed that we were going to get the job done and we got the job done.”

That continued early in the championship when Bachman (2 for 5, 3 RBIs) produced an at-bat which symbolized South’s Backyard Brawl performance. Following Rishcoff’s two-out single, Bachman fell behind 1-2 before taking two balls and fouling off three pitches. He then went the opposite way with a pitch on the outside corner, lacing it into right field and giving South a 2-0 lead.

“Our guys really battled and the energy in dugout was great,” Waller said. “We still have to get other guys to buy in an accept roles, but they are starting to for the most part and it’s good to see guys pulling for each other.

“This was a good day for us.”

Championship

South Williamsport 12, Montoursville 6

South 220 104 3–12 12 1

Montoursville 210 021 0–6 7 6

Sam Hostrander, Noah Turner (2), Ian Rhea (5), Grant Bachman (5) and Trent Hampton. Nick Reeder, Cameron Francis (3), Dylan Moll (6), Matt Conklin (7) and CJ Signor. W–Bachman, (3-0). L–Francis, (0-1).

Top South hitters: Ryan Rishcoff 4-4, 3B, 4 R; Bachman 2-5, 3 RBIs; Rhea 2-5, R; Connor Sauers 2-4, 2 RBIs, 2 SB; Landon Lorson 1-4, RBI, 2 R; Alex Neidig 1-3, R. Top Montoursville hitters: Nolan Kutney 2-3, HR, 2B, 2 RBIs, 2R; Maddix Dalena 2-4, 2 RBIs, R; James Batkowski 1-2, 2B, 2 R; Moll 2-4, RBI; Josh Burger 1-4, RBI, R.

Records: South 12-3. Montoursville 10-5.

Semifinals

Montoursville 001 032 6–12 9 2

Williamsport 000 020 0–3 7 6

AJ Llorente, Grayson Rinker (5) and CJ Signor. Michael Collyer, Braeden Mazzante (5), Owen Berry and Noah Wright. W–Llorente, (6-0). L–Collyer. SV–Rinker.

Top Montoursville hitters: Nick Reeder 2-5, RBI, R; Josh Burger 2-4, 2 RBIs, 2 R, SB; Nolan Kutney 2-3, HR, 2B, 2 RBIs, 3 R; Dylan Moll 1-3, 3B, R; James Batkowski 1-2, 2B, 2 R; Llorente 2 RBIs. Top Williamsport hitters: Xavier Taylor 2-3, 2B, R; Tommy Aversa 2-3; Berry 1-4, RBI.

Records: Williamsport 3-11.

South Williamsport 1, Loyalsock 0

South 000 001 0–1

Loyalsock 000 000 0–0

Landon Lorson, Sam Hostrander (7) and Trent Hampton. Chase Cavanaugh and Cooper Larson. W–Lorson, (4-2). L–Cavanaugh, (4-2).

Records: Loyalsock 9-5.

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