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Yagodzinskie and Sandri help Mount Carmel end Loyalsock’s title reign

Mount Carmel produced strong seasons the past two years, but both times Central Columbia and Loyalsock blocked its path to district championship glory.

Time will tell what happens this season, but Mount Carmel broke through one wall Saturday and will try going through the other Tuesday. How it did so was quite impressive.

Drew Yagodzinskie and Casen Sandri excelled under pressure all afternoon, combining on a six-hitter while stranding nine base runners. Damien Milewski and Julien Stellar hit two-out, sixth-inning RBI singles and Mount Carmel defeated former nemesis Loyalsock, 2-1 in Saturday’s District 4 Class AAA quarterfinals. The Tornadoes (13-8) dethroned the defending champions and now get a crack at top-seeded Central in Tuesday’s semifinals.

“They (Loyalsock) pounded us five times, three last year and two this year. It feels good to get back at them in this game,” Sandri said after throwing 2 2/3 innings scoreless relief. “We’re always the underdogs here. Loyalsock and Central have always been the top-tier teams. We just have to go in there with no pressure and do what we did today.”

What Mount Carmel did Saturday was play well in all facets and back up their strong pitching with error-less defense. Loyalsock (13-8) fought hard, but Yagodzinskie and Sandri repeatedly put out fires. Doing so helped Mount Carmel become the first team since 2011 to prevent Loyalsock from reaching the district semifinals.

The Lancers overcame a series of costly injuries and defended last year’s championship well. Ultimately, it was not about what they did wrong Saturday, but what Mount Carmel did right.

Loyalsock starter Alec Kulp excelled in his first playoff start and threw 4 1/3 shutout innings. Reliever Ethan Nagy pitched well and those two stranded 13 Mount Carmel runners. Milewski, however, finally produced that timely hit Mount Carmel needed in the sixth, dropping his RBI single down the right-field line before Stellar (3 for 4) showcased his hustle and beat out an infield RBI single which made it, 2-1.

“We knew going in we had to score more than one run to win the game,” Sandri said. “We just stayed with it, and we pushed runners through and did what we needed to.”

Sandri took it from there. After Yagodzinskie, a freshman, dominated in his playoff debut, striking out eight, Sandri turned Houdini and left five runners on over the last three innings. Yagodzinskie allowed just one run on a questionable two-out fourth-inning balk. Sandri left the bases loaded in the fifth and came up with the pitch of his life in the seventh, freezing Loyalsock’s final batter with a 2-2 heater on the outside corner while leaving the winning runs on base. Fittingly, the final pitch landed in the catcher’s mitt of Gavin Lasko who may have been the game’s hidden hero, twice throwing out runners to end threats.

“Drew threw an amazing game, and I knew I was coming in and Loyalsock has a tough lineup 1-9, so I was just trying to throw strikes,” Sandri said. “I was struggling a little bit to find the zone, but I just threw strikes and we got it done and Lasko had an amazing game.”

Matt Worth capped a stellar scholastic career at Loyalsock by going 2 for 3 with a double. Moxen Cotter went 1 for 2 with two walks and Cooper Larson hit a two-out single in the seventh inning.

Mount Carmel 000 002 0–2 10 0

Loyalsock 000 100 0–1 6 1

Drew Yagodzinskie, Casen Sandri (5) and Gavin Lasko. Alec Kulp, Ethan Nagy (5) and Cooper Larson. W–Sandri. L–Nagy.

Top Mount Carmel hitters: Julien Stellar 3-4, RBI; Damien Milewski 1-4, RBI; Daniel OáHearn 1-4, 2B; Lasko 2-3, BB. Top Loyalsock hitters: Matt Worth 2-3, 2B, R; Moxen Cotter 1-2, 2 BBs; Kyhler Allis 1-2; Braydon Miller 1-3; Cooper Larson 1-4.

Records: Mount Carmel 13-8. Loyalsock 13-8.

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