Loyalsock’s Chase Cavanaugh named Player of the Year in high school baseball
St. John Neumann made history and captured its first District 4 Class A championship. Loyalsock built on its storied tradition and won its eighth district title since 2008.
The schools separated by two miles earned those championships in similar thrilling fashion. They also dropped heartbreaking state tournament games in near identical fashion, overcoming deficits before losing on the game’s final pitch.
Neumann and Loyalsock seemed linked throughout the season, so it should not be surprising that they again are linked when it comes to the Sun-Gazette’s 2021 award winners.
SUN-GAZETTE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
SECOND RUNNERS-UP–LANDON LORSON, SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT AND DYLAN MOLL, MONTOURSVILLE: Only a junior, Lorson developed into an excellent team leader and shined in all facets. The slick-fielding shortstop anchored the infield defense, hit .397 and drove in 28 runs. Lorson also produced a .468 on-base percentage and seven multi-hit games, hitting a walk-off single in a 2-1 win against Danville. Lorson was even better on the mound and developed into one of the area’s premier pitches during the season’s second half. In his final six appearances the right-hander went 3-0 with a save, striking out 47 in 24 2/3 innings and allowing just 15 hits. Lorson threw 5 2/3 shutout innings against Loyalsock and was overpowering in a District 4 Class AA quarterfinal win against Wyalusing, giving up one hit in 5 2/3 innings and striking out nine as South avenged a previous defeat.
Just like in football, Moll was the area’s perfect Swiss Army knife. He played outfield, infield and pitched effectively. Whatever Montoursville needed, Moll provided and helped it reach a third straight district final. Overcoming an early-season injury, Moll hit .500 with a .574 on-base percentage and led Montoursville in average, RBIs, runs and home runs (tie). Moll reached career-bests in all those categories and combined power and speed, hitting four home runs, five doubles an two triples. The three-year starter also drove in 24 runs, scored 21 times and delivered nine multi-hit performances.
FIRST RUNNER UP–CY PROBST, CENTRAL MOUNTAIN: A consummate field general, Probst boosted Central Mountain with his hitting, his defense, his leadership and his mind. The Maine-bound catcher was a weapon behind the plate, excelling defensively and making just one error. He also called nearly every pitch every game and played a huge role in Central Mountain having one of the area’s best pitching staffs. A coach on the field, Probst caught and called an excellent game and helped the Wildcats allow just three runs in five playoff games. Oh yeah, Probst could hit, too. The senior batted a team-best .443 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. He also totaled a .540 on-base percentage and 10 extra-base hits. Probst was as consistent as he was productive, putting together a 13-game hitting streak, hitting safely in 18 of his last 21 games and collecting eight multi-hit performances.
AND THE WINNER IS…CHASE CAVANAUGH, LOYALSOCK: The ultimate competitor, Cavanaugh’s iron will was one that permeated through the roster and helped Loyalsock again reach lofty heights. An ideal leadoff hitter, Cavanaugh sparked a potent offense, hitting .438 with a .549 on-base percentage. When Cavanaugh reached base he often scored, setting those opportunities up by stealing 24 bases. An intelligent player, Cavanaugh scored 24 runs and could take a mile when given an inch. He again proved that in states, making a daring steal of home against Lake-Lehman. A gutsy pitcher as well, Cavanaugh won five games and compiled a 2.47 ERA. Cavanaugh slowed Central’s powerful offense in the district final and struck out 49 in 45 1/3 innings. Like on the football field, nothing could shake Cavanaugh when he pitched and he surrendered only 29 hits. Combine his production with his mentality and Cavanaugh perfectly represented everything coach Zac Martin wants his program to be.
SUN-GAZETTE PITCHER OF THE YEAR
SECOND RUNNER-UP — ROSS EYER, MUNCY: He was an all-state selection in football last fall and if there still was an all-state baseball team, Eyer might have earned honors there as well. The sophomore was that good in his debut season, going 6-1 with a 1.34 ERA. A hard-throwing right-hander with excellent movement on his pitches, Eyer set a program-record with 77 strikeouts in 47 innings and surrendered just 30 hits. He also held opponents to a .178 batting average, threw two shutouts and a no-hitter. Eyer avenged his only defeat when he threw a complete game against Montgomery and also struck out 10 against District 4 Class AA finalist Southern Columbia.
FIRST RUNNER-UP–KEON BURKHOLDER, ST. JOHN NEUMANN: Producing one of the best pitching seasons in Neumann history, Burkholder was a tenacious competitor on the mound who went 6-2 with a 1.69 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. The Newberry-bound right-hander surrendered just 18 hits in 43 1/3 innings and was brilliant in two playoff games. After throwing six innings of two-hit baseball with 10 strikeouts in the district final, Burkholder stymied District 11 champion Tri-Valley in states, fanning 10 more in six innings and scattering three hits. Burkholder struck out seven or more in all but one start which lasted more than three innings and also hit .351 with an area-high 31 RBIs.
AND THE WINNER IS…AIDAN MAJOR, CENTRAL MOUNTAIN: Major was a runaway winner this season and the real question might be where he stacks up with past winners of this award during the 21st century. That’s a debate for another time, but Major certainly would be in the discussion when it comes to the best season. The West Virginia-bound pitcher was just about as dominant as one can be, going 8-1 with a 0.97 ERA and a program-record 109 strikeouts. Even more impressive, the senior fireballer allowed just 21 hits in 65 innings. Take away his first start which came right after returning from COVID and Major went 8-0, surrendering just 18 hits in 62 1/3 innings while striking out 107. Only one team produced more than five hits against Major in his 12 starts and he limited 11 to three or fewer hits. Major went to another level in the biggest games, going 4-0 this postseason with a 0.00 ERA. The right-hander had total command of all four of his pitches and surrendered just seven hits in 30 2/3 innings while striking out 39. Major threw eight shutout innings against state finalist Bethel Park, combined on a no-hitter in an opening round state tournament win against St. Peters and threw a two-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts in the district final against Hollidaysburg. This decade has seen just one year of high school baseball but it will hard for any pitcher the rest of the way to top what Major did in 2021.
SUN-GAZETTE COACH OF THE YEAR
SECOND RUNNERS-UP — CASEY WALLER, SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT AND MIKE KRAMER, CENTRAL MOUNTAIN: Waller worked his magic in his debut year at South, helping a young Mounties team with seven new starters win 16 games and reach the District 4 Class AA semifinals. South grew a lot throughout the year against a demanding schedule and highlighted its journey by winning the Backyard Brawl championship for the first time since 2003, beating Loyalsock and Montoursville on the same day. Kramer continued his long run of success at Central Mountain and helped his Wildcats enjoy one of the best seasons in program history. Central Mountain captured a third straight District 6 5A championship, reached the state semifinals for the first time since 2008 and came within a run of reaching the state final. The Wildcats won 17 of their last 20 games, overcoming a 1-3 start and playing their best baseball at the perfect time.
FIRST RUNNER-UP — ZAC MARTIN, LOYALSOCK: Martin exuded everything he could from a tough-minded team which surged late in the season, defeated heavily favored Central Columbia in the district final and came within an out of beating loaded state semifinalist Lake-Lehman. Considering the adversity Loyalsock faced, this was the most trying year Martin has coached through in his four years there and that might make it the most rewarding. Loyalsock won six straight games entering the state tournament, beat Central after the Blue Jays had won two regular-season games by a 14-1 margin, and revealed a toughness which almost carried it to the state’s Elite 8. Martin had some big shoes to fill when replacing Jeremy Eck but has helped Loyalsock win two district championships and reach three finals in his four years there.
AND THE WINNER IS…CORY BURKHOLDER, ST. JOHN NEUMANN: Burkholder has worked wonders since becoming Neumann’s coach midway through the 2017 season and has helped transform the program. A coach who has helped his players excel on and off the field, Burkholder guided the Knights to their first league and district championships as well as a program-record 18 wins. Neumann has improved on its win total in each of Burkholder’s three full seasons and made the playoffs for a third straight year for the first time in program history. The Knights went undefeated in league play, sweeping Montgomery for the first time in the 2000s. Neumann also frequently rallied to win games it used to lose in the past and proved it was as tough as it was talented.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bob Rockwell, Canton; Chris Kish, Hughesville; Jeremy Eck, Montoursville; Chris Persing, Muncy; Steve Adams, Wellsboro
SUN-GAZETTE ALL-STAR STARTING LINEUP
1. Chase Cavanaugh, OF, Loyalsock
2. Dylan Moll, OF, Montoursville
3. Dallas Griess, DH, Williamsport (.600, .684 obp, 3 HR, 2B, 4 3B, 1.800 slugging, 0 Es, 10 RBIs)
4. Cy Probst, C, Central Mountain
5. Maddix Dalena, IF, Montoursville (.426, .573 obp, 4 HR, 4 2B, 24 RBIs, 23 R, 8 multi-hit games, .979 fielding, just 1 E)
6. Matt Worth, IF, Loyalsock (.426, .474 obp, 2 HR, 7 2B, 3 3B, 28 RBIs, 17 for last 26)
7. Carter Cowburn, IF, Hughesville (.404, .562 obp, 4 HR, 4 2B, 3B, 19 RBI, 20 R)
8. Karter Peacock, OF, Jersey Shore (.482, .500 obp, 4 HR, 5 2B, 17 RBI, 17 R, hit in 15 of 18 games, 8 multi-hit games)
9. Landon Lorson, IF, South Williamsport
Aidan Major, Central Mountain; Keon Burkholder, St. John Neumann; Ross Eyer, Muncy; Dylon Pequignot, Hughesville (4-2, 0.92 ERA, 45 2/3 IP, 33 H, 72 Ks); Josh Rankey, Loyalsock (6-1, 2.23 ERA, 37 2/3 IP, 25 H, 51 Ks, 2-0 in playoffs, no-hitter)
AJ Llorente, Montoursville (6-2, 2.51 ERA, 31 1/3 IP, 25 H, 32 Ks); McGwire Painter, Cowanesque Valley (4-2, 2.65 ERA, 31 2/3 IP, 12 H, 66 Ks; Brandon Laubach, Jersey Shore (3-2, 3.20 ERA, 30 2/3 IP, 25 H, 51 Ks, .214 oba); Cooper Kitchen, Canton (7-1, 2.41 ERA, 32 IP, 24 H, 34 Ks); Chase Brush, Central Mountain (3-1, 1 SV, 1.35 ERA, 20 2/3 IP, 11 H, 36 Ks)
Nick Barone, IF, Loyalsock (.313, .488 obp, 3 HR, 6 2B, 2 3B, 25 RBIs, 28 R, 11 SBs); Darryn Callahan, OF, Wellsboro (.347, .556 obp, 5 HR, 3 2B, 4 3B, 19 RBIs, 27 R, 14 SB); Kaden Falls, IF, Central Mountain (.303, .447, 3 HR, 7 2B, 3B, 28 RBIs, 25 R, 11 SB); Josh Heath, IF, Lewisburg (.421, .540 obp, 5 HR, 5 2B, 3B, 17 RBI, 16 R); Nolan Kutney, OF, Montoursville (.439, 3 HR, 7 2B, 2 3B, 8 multi-hit games, 7 SB); Ryan Rishcoff, OF, South (.455, .538 obp, HR, 5 2B, 3B, 15 RBIs, 12 R, 7 multi-hit games, Backyard Brawl MVP, 9 SB); Max Rymsza, IF, Muncy (.336, .432 obp, 2 HR, 5 2B, 30 RBIs, 24 R, hit in 18 of 21 games, 7 multi-hit games, 12 SB); Naz Smith, OF, Neumann (.440, .494 obp, HR, 6 2B, 2 3B, 20 RBIs, 36 R, 10 multi-hit games, 37 SBs); Tucker St. Peter, IF, CV (.542, .597 obp, 2 HR, 9 2B, 2 3B, 23 RBIs, 22 R, 10 multi-hit games, 19 SB); Devin Swank, OF, Hughesville (.348, .465 obp, 2 HR, 8 2B, 6 3B, 17 RBI, 29 R, 12 SB); JerVal Weeks-Shuler, C, Neumann (.459, .633 obp, HR, 4 2B, 2 3B, 43 R, 27 RBIs, 9 multi-hit games, 32 SB)
Weston Bellows, OF, Canton (.387, .449 obp, HR, 3B, 7 2B, 25 RBIs, 20 R, 29 H, 9 multi-hit games, 23 SB); Cameron Brought, OF, Wellsboro (.424, .507 obp, 7 2B, 3B, 15 RBIs, 21 R, 8 multi-hit games); Deacon Brown, OF, Williamsport; Jeff Hamilton, IF, Neumann (.304, .437 obp, 4 2B, 27 RBIs, 21 R); Cooper Larson, C, Loyalsock .387, .481 obp, 4 2B, 2 3B, 14 RBIs, 19 R); Clayton Poust, IF, Hughesville (.351, .479 obp, 3 HR, 2 2B, 3B, 13 RBI, 19 R, 13 SB); Joeb Schurer, IF, Loyalsock (.338, .461 obp, 4 2B, 2 3B, 16 RBIs, 23 R, 7 SB); Mike Sipps, C, CV (.518, .600 obp, 7 2B, 3B, 18 RBIs, 20 R, 9 multi-hit games, 23 SB); Colby Springman, IF, Montgomery (.341, .463 obp, 2 2B, 19 RBIs, 16 R); Ryan Thompson, OF, Neumann; Hudson Ward, OF, Canton (.395, .484 obp, 9 2B, 25 RBI, 33 R, 30 H, 8 multi-hit games, 25 SB).
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
SECOND RUNNERS-UP–RYAN THOMPSON, NEUMANN AND NICK REEDER, MONTOURSVILLE: Thompson made a big impact in his first season at Neumann, providing it a big bat in the middle of the lineup. Playing both outfield and third base, Thompson hit .450 with two home runs, eight doubles, 23 RBIs and 21 runs. The versatile junior showed a flair for the dramatic, hitting a walkoff home run against Montgomery and reaching base three times in the district final. Thompson also collected two or more hits 10 times. Reeder delivered in big games as well and threw six brilliant innings of one-hit baseball with six strikeouts in a 9-2 district semifinal win against Athens. Reeder shined in his first varsity season pitching, going 3-0 with a 2.07 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 27 innings. He also was a reliable leadoff hitter who produced a .405 on-base percentage with 13 RBIs and 19 runs.
FIRST RUNNER-UP–DEACON BROWN, WILLIAMSPORT: Few recent area freshmen have put together a more impressive debut season than Brown did in an abbreviated campaign. The talented outfielder quickly developed into one of thea area’s premier hitters, batting .545 and hitting safely in each of his 12 games before an injury ended his year. Brown looks like a future star and played well in the outfield while also homering, hitting three doubles and totaling a .595 on-base percentage. If Brown and Dallas Griess are healthy next season, Williamsport could have two of the area’s best hitters batting back to back.
AND THE WINNER IS…NOAH GEARHART, MONTGOMERY: Whether hitting, fielding or pitching, Gearhart proved himself to be one of the Mid-Penn’s top all-around players. The sophomore hit .326 and had a .473 on-base percentage while scoring 24 teams and stealing 16 bases. Gearhart also established himself as the staff ace and went 3-2 with a 2.97 ERA. Gearhart took a on-hitter into the seventh inning at Northwest struck out 38 in 35 1/3 innings and allowed just 25 hits. He also held opponents to a .179 batting average and Gearhart provides a good foundation for Montgomery to build around next year.
GAME OF THE YEAR
SECOND RUNNER-UP–SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT 1, LOYALSOCK 0: The Mounties made a statement in the Backyard Brawl semifinals, defeating Loyalsock for the first time since 2014. Lorson and Sam Hostrander combined on the six-hit shutout and Lorson struck out 10. Ryan Rishcoff provided the big hit, smashing a sixth-inning RBI double which scored Kaden Shay with the winning run.
FIRST RUNNER-UP–LOYALSOCK 7, CENTRAL COLUMBIA 6: This district final was a heavyweight battle with each team answering whenever the other seized momentum. Cavanaugh, Joeb Schurer and Josh Rankey left game-tying, go-ahead or game-winning runners on base in five of the last six innings and Loyalsock prevailed in eight innings. Cavanaugh scored the winning run in the top of the eighth after stealing second and coming home on Schurer’s bunt and ensuing throwing error. Rankey ended the thriller with a strikeout, leaving the winning runs on the corners.
AND THE WINNER IS…ST. JOHN NEUMANN 4, COWANESQUE VALLEY 3: Neumann made history in dramatic fashion. CV appeared to have victory nearly secured, leading 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth and quickly recording the inning’s first out. Then Thompson walked and Caleb Neidig hit an infield single. Naseer Dymeck was down to Neumann’s last strike three times with two outs but drew a walk. Suddenly Neumann was bursting with life and Naz Smith tied the game with a two-run single. Keon Burkholder and JerVal Weeks-Shuler struck out 15 and Weeks-Shuler played the hero, hitting a walkoff single a batter later as Neumann kicked down the doors of history and became the program’s best team ever.