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Hughesville’s Dylan Farnsworth is valuable for the Spartans

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Dylan Farnsworth of Hughesville dives for a fly ball during a game in April against Loyalsock.

Right fielder Dylan Farnsworth provides Hughesville a lot. He is hitting .400, plays strong defense and does the little things which often help produce big wins.

But it’s something statistics or analytics cannot measure which makes him especially valuable. The senior captain is an excellent leader. He talks the talk and walks the walk and has the ability to make those around him better.

That quality revealed itself again at the most crucial time last Tuesday against Wellsboro. After the Hornets built a 4-0 lead, Farnsworth gathered his teammates before Hughesville batted in the fourth inning and said the season would not end like this.

And it did not.

Farnsworth was in the middle of a game-changing, three-run rally and hit an RBI single while going 2 for 3. Hughesville rallied to win, 7-4 and reach its first district final since 2013. The Spartans (16-5) play Central Columbia for the championship Tuesday at Bowman Field after Friday’s originally scheduled game was postponed by rain.

“The middle of fourth, Dylan said, ‘There’s no way I’m going out like this,'” Hughesville coach Chris Kish said. “That guy has been unbelievable for us all year long with his leadership. He is the consummate teammate and also a fighter.”

So are his teammates who have followed Farnsworth’s lead, navigated a demanding schedule and reached a district final for just the second time in program history. Tuesday’s win showcased what has made this Hughesville team such a good one.

The Spartans have been down several times this season, but often have come back for big wins against teams like Central, Midd-West and Loyalsock. It has never been one or two players behind those comebacks either.

This is a true team and it shined through at the most pivotal moments against Wellsboro. Austin Gray pitched three brilliant shutout innings in relief, seven players produced hits and nine reached base. Hughesville tied the game in the fifth inning, went ahead in the sixth and continued the climb which literally started a day after last year’s semifinal loss against Central.

“It’s a team. It’s not one person or two people,” Gray said. “It’s everyone working together.”

And that is what Hughesville will keep doing as it now has a few extra days to prepare for its championship showdown. Hughesville is the only team which has beaten Central this year, doing son a Tyler Wetzel walk-off single. A day after Central eliminated them last May, Hughesville players hit the weight room.

The grind continues.

“It’s like one of our coaches said after the (Wellsboro) game, ‘We get back to work.’ It’s the same mindset,” Farnsworth said. “It’s a one-game season from here on out. We love each other and we’re going to try and spend as much time with each other as long as we can.”

STEPPING UP

Trying to win a district championship in a fiercely competitive Class AA field is tough enough. Trying do so without your top hitter seems nearly impossible.

So, when Muncy first baseman Noah Confer was lost for the season after suffering an injury in his team’s second-to-last regular season game, some likely scratched Muncy off the list of serious title contenders. The Indians, though, never stopped believing.

And now they find themselves in today’s district final against rival South Williamsport. Muncy (19-3) rallied past Southern Columbia, 3-2 in the quarterfinals before pulling the upset of District 4 thus far and downing defending champion Sayre, 5-2. Obviously, Muncy misses Confer’s stellar .534 average and 21 RBIs, but this gritty, deep team keeps moving forward as the next man up keeps excelling.

“It’s different guys. You’re not going to replace Noah’s bat and his 31 hits in 19 games, but you need the guys that are going to battle and get hits in timely spots and that’s what we’re getting,” Muncy coach Chris Persing said. “We’re putting the bat on the ball and making teams make plays in big spots in games and it’s working for us.”

Gio Persun moved from left field to take Confer’s place against Southern and was the game’s MVP, going 2 for 3 with a home run and a seventh-inning double before scoring on Kadyn Berry’s walk-off single. Against Sayre, Loudon Boring and Branson Eyer hit crucial singles in a three-run fifth inning as Muncy went up to stay and avenged a 14-1 loss from earlier this season against a team which had pummeled nearly everyone during its 19 wins.

Losing Confer hurt, but Muncy did not use that as an excuse. Instead, the Indians pulled together and played some of their best baseball. Against the odds, this resilient team which captured its first league title since 2011 is now playing for the district’s biggest prize.

“We knew after playing Sayre the first time that it wouldn’t be the last time we saw them, so we came in with a chip on our shoulder and knew it was time for some redemption and revenge,” Ross Eyer said after earning the semifinal win. “It felt really good to get the bats rolling. We had some smart base running and it was a really good team win. All the parts came together really well.”

THE TRIFECTA

Casey Waller will lead his South team into today’s final and return to Bowman Field after having coached Loyalsock and Hughesville to district championships in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2013. In fact, Waller’s teams are 4-0 in district finals.

Waller made his debut at South a season ago and that team reached the district finals. Like Muncy, South (15-5) faced a daunting task this season, battled through a difficult schedule and then knocked off surging Canton in the quarterfinals. That brought South face to face with 18-win Wyalusing and Wake Forest-bound pitcher Blake Morningstar.

Like Muncy, South did all the little things right, played effective small-ball and received both stellar pitching and timely hits to win, 3-1. Landon Lorson was magnificent, throwing 6 2/3 innings, striking out 13 and allowing no earned runs. Kaden Shay ripped the go-ahead RBI double in the sixth inning and DJ Gantz’s seventh-inning double helped produce another run.

PUZZLE PIECES

Montoursville reached its fourth straight district final after defeating Lewisburg, 5-4 in Wednesday’s 4A semifinal. Center fielder Nick Reeder threw out two runners at the plate and Montoursville (15-5) overcame a 3-2 second-inning deficit to reach today’s championship against rival Danville.

Following the game, coach Jeremy Eck was one part elated, one part exhausted and one part frustrated. The Warriors scored two first-inning runs and quickly went up 2-0 but left runners on second and third with one out. It was the same situation in the second inning when Montoursville went up 4-3 but left the bases loaded and runners in scoring position with one out.

Montoursville survived but is facing a surging Danville team which dethroned defending champion Midd-West, 3-2. What Eck hopes now is that his team can put all the pieces together at the perfect time.

“I think we’re a really good team that hasn’t figured it out yet. I don’t understand. The first inning we had a chance to bury them and we just didn’t do it. Then we had another opportunity and we didn’t do it,” Eck said following the Lewisburg game. “We’re not getting the big hit to blow games open, but a win is a win and we’re excited to get an opportunity to play in the final.”

COUNTY STRONG

Lycoming County has enjoyed an excellent baseball season and has placed a team in every District 4 final. St. John Neumann rallied from down three in the seventh inning to beat Cowanesque Valley, 9-6 in eight innings before losing to Benton in Thursday’s Class A championship.

Muncy and South make it an all-county showdown in AA; Hughesville is in AAA and Montoursville in 4A. Williamsport plays through District 2 but also is finals-bound after defeating Delaware Valley 2-1 and earning a spot in Wednesday’s championship against Hazleton.

“It’s exciting,” Eck said. “It’s good for the area.”

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