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Reeder and Rinker help throw Montoursville past Lewisburg and into district final

ALMEDIA–Nick Reeder owned the mound at Central Columbia a year ago, throwing 5 2/3 one-hit innings and helping Montoursville defeat Athens in the District 4 Class AAAA semifinals. In Wednesday’s semifinals, back at Central, Reeder was farther away and patrolling center field.

But he still was dominant when throwing the ball home.

Reeder made two perfect throws to the plate against Lewisburg, cutting runners down each time. In a game decided by a razor-thin margin Reeder’s throws ultimately sent Montoursville back to the district final.

Reeder twice ended innings with his lasers; Grayson Rinker pitched four brilliant innings of relief and Cole Remsnyder drove in three runs as Montoursville edged Lewisburg, 5-4 in a hard-fought, well-played semifinal. The Warriors (15-5) erased a 3-2 second-inning deficit and reached their fourth straight district final, earning a spot against Danville Saturday at Bowman Field.

“I was surprised both times. I was shallow both times and I saw the coach waving him in and I didn’t think that was a good move,” said Reeder who also was 1 for 3 with two runs. “It excites me, especially when they test me twice. I was surprised they thought they could run on me after I threw them out the first time.”

Montoursville, which will be trying to win its third championship in four years, led 4-3 in the fourth inning when Reeder started showcasing his hose. Max Mitchell, who threw 5 2/3 gutsy innings, was on third with one out when Michael Casale lofted a ball into shallow center field.

Lewisburg gambled and sent Mitchell, but Reeder was holding all the cards. His perfect one-hop throw to catcher Matthias Albert was there so fast that Mitchell stopped ¾ of the way down the line and tried going back before Albert chased him down and tagged him out.

Just a day earlier, Montoursville coach Jeremy Eck decided to close practice by putting players on second base, bringing the outfielders in and having them try to catch them at home. Reeder continued making practice perfect an inning later, again denying Lewisburg the tying run.

This time, Montoursville led 5-3 when Shea Girton ripped a two-out RBI single with runners on second and third. Mitchell tried scoring from second, but Reeder owned the moment. His throw again one-hopped and hit Albert chest high. Albert then made a quick tag, getting Mitchell on the back as Montoursville preserved its one-run lead and moved within six outs of another district final.

“If we don’t get those two plays at the plate it could be 6-5 and we go home,” Reeder said. “So, I feel like they were two big plays.”

“He’s a senior who’s been in the lineup for two years and he definitely doesn’t want his season to end,” Eck said. “He hasn’t been playing his best baseball and he’s been struggling offensively, so that’s his contribution right now. Go get everything in the outfield right now and make a couple special plays and that’s what he did tonight and thank God, he threw them on the money. They were perfect throws.”

Third baseman Cameron Weihermuller-Francis made a snap throw home earlier in the fifth inning to deny Lewisburg another run. Playing against a tenacious opponent, those throws were the uppercuts which eventually helped put away a worthy challenger. It certainly helped, too, that Remsnyder produced timely hits and Rinker pitched so well.

Remsnyder belted a two-run single in the first inning which put Montoursville up 2-0. Lewisburg answered an inning later and took a 3-2 lead as Forrest Zelechoski, Jack Blough and Kaiden Wagner all hit RBI singles. Montoursville, however, remained unfazed.

Ethan Stahl led off the bottom of the inning with a single; Reeder dropped a bunt single and Remsnyder tied the game with an RBI single. Weihermuller-Francis put Montoursville ahead to stay a batter later with a sacrifice fly and AJ Llorente hit an RBI grounder in the fifth which made it, 5-3.

“You just have to stay up. You can’t get down. You have to keep everyone in the dugout up and try to keep rallying,” Rinker said. “We know what we can do, and we showed that tonight.”

Rinker displayed what he can on the mound as well. Llorente is tied for the area wins lead but did not have his best stuff Wednesday. Still, the senior battled through three innings, left two runners on base in the second and struck out for. Rinker entered in the fourth and Zelechoski (2 for 3) greeted him with a single.

Once Rinker settled in, though, he started taking over. He induced a double play three pitches later, then dominated the final two innings following Reeder’s timely throw to end the fifth. He struck out four and stymied an offense which had started strong.

The junior right-hander had excellent movement on his fastball and did not allow a hit over the last two innings. Rinker worked a perfect seventh inning, closing the game with consecutive strikeouts.

“I was really pumped up and ready to go. AJ gutted through three innings for us, and I was able to do the rest,” Rinker said. “It was very exciting. I’m glad I got the chance to do that. I know those guys have my back. I can throw any pitch I want, and they’ll go and make the plays.”

Dalena proved it in the sixth when he made an incredible inning-ending catch. A runner was on first when Aiden Howerter sent a flyball into no-man’s land down the left-field line. Dalena sprinted over from shortstop and somehow made a fully extended dive and caught the ball a few inches before it hit the ground.

A few inches there, a few inches in either direction on Reeder’s throws and the result might be different. Lewisburg nearly reached its first district final since 2018 and played a strong overall game. Wagner and Zelechoski each had two hits and Mitchell did not allow a hit after the second inning, growing stronger as the game progressed.

Lewisburg and Montoursville split two regular-season games and each one was close. This one was the best yet and Montoursville found a way to earn the opportunity it has coveted since last year’s district championship loss.

The Warriors certainly have done it the hard way.

“This has been a trying year. People don’t understand that it’s a battle,” Eck said. “We haven’t played great baseball. To fight and fight and fight through everything you earn … it’s rewarding but it’s also draining.”

Lewisburg 030 010 0–4 6 1

Montoursville 220 100 x–5 6 1

Max Mitchell, Forrest Zelechoski (6) and Shea Girton. AJ Llorente, Grayson Rinker (5) and Matthias Albert. W–. L–.

Top Lewisburg hitters: Zelechoski 2-3; Kaiden Wagner 2-4, RBI, R; Girton 1-2, RBI; Jack Blough 1-3, RBI. Top Montoursville hitters: Cole Remsnyder 2-3, 3 RBIs; Maddix Dalena 1-2, 2R; AJ Llorente 1-3, RBI; Nick Reeder 1-3, 2R; Ethan Stahl 1-3, R.

Records: Montoursville 15-5. Lewisburg 10-9.

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