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Five-tool threat Landon Lorson of South Williamsport earns Player of the Year baseball nod

Landon Lorson of South Williamsport dives to make a catch on a ball hit by Mason Gibson of Marian Catholic in South Williamsport April 9, 2022. South won 5-0. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Montoursville and South Williamsport both captured District 4 championships. Each did so for the third time in four years. Both teams also reached the state quarterfinals and featured he same record.

Heck, even when these local rivals played at the Backyard Brawl, the game was about as evenly matched as possible with Montoursville winning, 1-0 in eight innings. These teams both carried on their rich program traditions and, not surprisingly, both make an impact among the Sun-Gazette Area Baseball Awards.

Sun-Gazette Player of the Year

Second runner-up–Owen Berry, Williamsport and Carter Cowburn, Hughesville: Berry made his final scholastic season his best one. The senior shortstop provided production in every area and helped a team hit hard by injuries keep going strong. Berry hit .438 with a .520 on-base percentage, while driving in 21 runs, delivering eight extra-base hits and scoring 16 times. The senior leader also produced 10 multi-hit performances in his last 16 games and averaged a strikeout on the mound, fielding a 1.35 ERA as he shined in relief. Another three-way threat, Cowburn was the most valuable player for a team which reached the District 4 Class AAA final. The Michigan-bound first baseman/pitcher was a force in the middle of the order, hitting .456 with a home run, seven doubles, 24 RBIs and 16 runs. Cowburn compiled a .536 on-base percentage and has 45 hits with 43 RBIs in his first two seasons at Hughesville. A rock at first base, Cowburn also is tough on the mound and makes an ideal closer after earning four saves. He also was 1-0 with a 1.58 ERA, striking out 43 in 26 innings.

First runner-up–Maddix Dalena, Montoursville: More is coming on Dalena’s impact but for now the focus is upon his offense and defense, both which were outstanding. The Connecticut-bound senior was one of the toughest outs in the area, producing a .556 on-base percentage with many teams working around him. He hit .375 and was second in the area with four home runs. Dalena added 17 RBIs and shined at shortstop after catching and playing first base his first two seasons. Dalena helped Montoursville capture two district championships in his three years starting.

And the winner is…Landon Lorson, South Williamsport: This was a close call, with both Dalena and Lorson being two of the state’s premier players. A consummate leader, Lorson powered the South offense and was a five-tool threat. Lorson provided some Rickey Henderson-like pop from the lead-off spot, leading the area with five home runs, while adding 29 RBIs and scoring 30 runs. Lorson was a tone setter who (spoiler alert) also dominated on the mound and he finished with a .464 on-base percentage. Also a three-year starter and key part of two district championships, Lorson closed his brilliant high school career with 65 career RBIs and anchored the infield, playing both shortstop and third base.

Sun-Gazette Pitcher of the Year

Second runner-up–Makai Day, South Williamsport and AJ Llorente, Montoursville: Day seemed like the final piece of South’s championship puzzle, forming one of the state’s best Class AA pitching duos along with Lorson. The crafty left-hander pounded the strike zone, went 7-2 with two saves and produced a 1.82 ERA. He allowed just 27 hits in 46 1/3 innings pitched and struck out 66. Day was at his best in the playoffs, going 2-0 with a save. He opened the district final by throwing three perfect innings against 19-win Muncy, earning the win there, and he also hit .326. Llorente was part of the area’s other dominant pitching duo, combining with Dalena, to make life miserable for opposing hitters. The senior right-hander went 7-2 with a 2.33 ERA and finished the regular season tied for the area lead in wins. Llorente won seven straight decisions at one point, striking out 51 in 41 innings. He dominated the Backyard Brawl, throwing a complete game five-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the championship win against Loyalsock, a day after closing out the South victory with a perfect eighth inning. Llorente also hit .368 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and a .513 on-base percentage.

First runner-up–Landon Lorson, South Williamsport: A super complement to Day, Lorson brought the heat and his flames often engulfed opposing offenses. Lorson went 5-2 with two saves and a 2.08 ERA. He surrendered just 29 hits in 46 innings and was second among area pitchers with 85 strikeouts. Lorson struck out 140 batters over the last two seasons and was untouchable in the district semifinals when he outdueled Wake Forest-bound Blake Morningstar in a 3-1 win. Lorson allowed no earned runs in 6 2/3 masterful innings while striking out 13. He also went 2-0 with two saves as South made its second deepest playoff run ever.

And the winner is … Maddix Dalena, Montoursville: Montoursville is basically Pitcher U with the pipe line of tremendous pitchers coming from there stretching back to the 70s. Dalena took the torch this year and carried it on in dominant fashion, putting his year up with some of the best produced at Montoursville. The flame-throwing righty went 7-1 with a save and a 1.67 ERA. A brilliant big-game pitcher, Dalena went 2-0 in the playoffs, throwing a shutout in the district final and overpowering 2021 state finalist Wyoming Area in the opening round of states. He brought some Nolan Ryan heat and also could make knees buckle with his curveball, averaging a whopping 2.1 strikeouts per inning. Dalena finished with an area-high 87 strikeouts and set an area 2000s high for strikeous in a seven-inning game. Dalena put together the pitching performance of the season that day against Jersey Shore, throwing 6 2/3 innings of one-hit baseball and striking out 18. That was one of four times Dalena struck out at least 11 batters in a game.

Sun-Gazette

All-Star Team

(Only teams who reported scores to the Sun-Gazette included)

Starting Lineup

1. Landon Lorson, IF, South; 2. Dallas Griess, OF, Williamsport (.367, .513 obp, HR, 6 2B, 2 3B, 10 RBIs, 15R, 0 Es, season-ending 8 game hit streak, reached base in all 12 games); 3. Maddix Dalena, P, Montoursville; 4. Carter Cowburn, IF, Hughesville; 5. Owen Berry, IF, Williamsport; 6. Eli Olshefskie, OF, Hughesville (.463, .542 obp, HR, 3B, 6 2B, 18 RBIs, 12R, 13-game hitting streak in first 13 starts, 6 multi-hit games, 0 Ks in first 13 starts); 7. Noah Confer, IF, Muncy (area-best .534, .567 obp, HR, 3B, 8 2B, 21 RBIs, 20R, closed with 14-game hitting streak, hit in 16 of 18 games, 9 multi-hit games, .987 fielding, 51 hits, 37 RBIs in 2 seasons); 8. Alex Davis, OF, North Penn-Mansfield (.459, .535 obp, HR, 12 2B, 29 RBIs, 17R, 12 SB, 9 multi-hit games); 9. Nathan Helms, C, Central Mountain (.357, .489 obp, 6 2B, 10 RBIs, 6 multi-hit games, .995 fielding, threw out 10 base stealers)

Sun-Gazette All-Star Pitching Staff

Starting Rotation: Maddix Dalena, Montoursville; Landon Lorson, South; Makai Day, South; AJ Llorente, Montoursville; Chase Brush, Central Mountain (4-1, 2.18 ERA, 41 2/3 IP, 46 Ks, 8 games of two-earned runs or fewer in 9 appearances, 2-0 in districts)

Bullpen: Kydreece Burks, Williamsport (4-2, 2.02 ERA, 45 IP, 35 H, 36 Ks, 2 CGs, 1 SHO); Ross Eyer, Muncy (6-3, 3.90 ERA, 41 1/3 IP, 29H, 73 Ks, 150 Ks in 2 years, 2 wins in districts); JerVal Weeks-Shuler, St. John Neumann (3-3, 2.86 ERA, 22 IP, 9H, 42 Ks); Branson Eyer, Muncy (6-0, SV, 1.79 ERA, 39 IP, 32 H, 48 Ks); Grayson Rinker, Montoursville (2-1, SV, 1.81 ERA, 27 IP, 18 H, 29 Ks)

First Team Reserves

Weston Bellows, OF, Canton (.354, .421 obp, HR, 3B, 3 2B, 26 RBIs, 22R, 8 multi-hit games, 33 SBs); Cameron Brought, IF, Wellsboro (.484, .595 obp, 3 2B, 28 RBIs, 22R, 9 multi-hit games, 0 Es); Darryn Callahan, IF, Wellsboro (.419, .537 obp, 2 HR, 6 3B, 6 2Bs, 27 RBIs, 32R, program record holder for single-season and career triples, 10 multi-hit games); Dylan Farnsworth, OF, Hughesville (.400, .453 obp, 7 2B, 3B, 12 RBIs, 23R, 8 multi-hit games); Noah Gearhart, IF, Montgomery (.519, .613 obp, HR, 7 2B, 20 RBIs, 34R, 14 SB); Cayde McCloskey, IF, Central Mountain (.375, .459 obp, HR, 2 3B, 3 2B, 23 RBIs, 16R, hit in 20 of 23 games, hitting streaks of 11 and 7 games); Thayden Miller, C, Montgomery (.475, .575 obp, 9 2B, 21 RBIs); Gio Persun, OF, Muncy (.422, .526 obp, 2 HR, 8 2B, 19 RBIs, 24R, 9 multi-hit games, .974 fielding); Kaden Shay, IF, South (.318, .416 obp, 12 SBs, 9-15 in playoffs with 7 RBIs); Caden Smith, C, Wellsboro (.457, .525 obp, 2 2B, 19 RBIs, 30R, 10 multi-hit games, .978 fielding); Matt Worth, IF, Loyalsock (.440, .552 obp, 6 2B, 2 3B, 10 RBIs, 14R, 7 SB)

Second Team

Conner Adams, IF, Wellsboro (.394, .475 obp, 5 2B, 17 RBIs, 23R, 16 SBs); Aiden Barlett, OF, Hughesville (.364, .425 obp, 5 2B, 17 RBIs, 12R, .944 fielding); Deacon Brown, OF, Williamsport (.302, .395 obp, HR, 3 2B, 25 RBIs, 15R); Shea Girton, C, Lewisburg (.400, .500 obp, HR, 6 2B, 14 RBIs, 9R, 5 multi-hit games, .964 fielding); Braydon Miller, IF, Loyalsock (.386, .478 obp, 2 3B, HR, 17 RBIs, 16R); Cole Remsnyder, OF, Montoursville (.345, .449 obp, HR, 15 RBIs); Mike Sipps, C, Cowanesque Valley (.476, .598 obp, 2 HR, 7 2B, 19 RBIs, 25R, 8 multi-hit games, 25 SBs); Colby Springman, IF, Montgomery (.370, .478 obp, 6 2B, HR, 25 RBIs, 29R, 13 SB); Tanner Springman, OF, Montgomery (.386, .507 obp, 3 3B, 2 2B, 10 RBIs, 31R, 18 SB); Ryan Thompson, IF, Neumann (.375, .467 obp, 2 HRs, 19 RBIs, 16R)

Sun-Gazette Coach of the Year

Second runner-up–Kyle Schneider, Williamsport and Chris Persing, Muncy: A year after Williamsport suffered through a five-win season, Schneider guided it back to the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA championship. The Millionaires produced one of the year’s best turnarounds, finishing 14-7 and winning nearly three times as many games as in 2021. Schneider provided a steady hand and Williamsport also captured its first Central Penn League championship since 2011 when he was the staff’s top pitcher. Persing has long been one of the area’s premier coaches and did one of his best jobs this season, helping Muncy reach its first district final since 2011 and its first ever at the Class AA level. The Indians went undefeated in the Mid-Penn, captured their first league title in 10 years and went 19-4. Muncy was peaking at the perfect time and stunned top-seeded, defending champion Sayre in the district semifinals.

First runner-up–Casey Waller, South Williamsport: One of the state’s best coaches in any sport, Waller made it 3 for 3 in producing district championships in his coaching journey. After leading Loyalsock and Hughesville to four district championships in his previous stops, Waller again coaxed the most from South and helped it overcome a grueling Class AA field to win a third title in four years. Pushing all the right buttons, Waller had South playing its best at the perfect time as it reached the state quarterfinals and came within three outs of beating eventual state champion Everett. South also beat Sayre, Wyalusing and Muncy teams which all won 19 games.

And the winner is…Jeremy Eck, Montoursville: Before the season even started, Montoursville was dealt a potential devastating blow when Pittsburgh-bound slugger Nolan Kutney was lost for the year. Eck, however, made sure the expectations remained the same despite Montoursville playing in a loaded HAC-I field which included 5A state runner-up Selinsgrove and District 6 Class AAAAA champion Central Mountain. After having not won a district crown in eight years, Eck has helped Montoursville win three in his first four years at his alma mater. The Warriors surged down the stretch, winning 13 of 15 games, capturing the Backyard Brawl championship and defeating 2021 state runner-up Wyoming Area in its backyard during states. Eck’s teams have won two state titles and seven district crowns in his 11 years coaching.

Honorable Mention: Mike Kramer, Central Mountain; Chris Kish, Hughesville; Steve Adams, Wellsboro

Sun-Gazette Breakthrough Player of the Year

(A player of any grade who made huge strides this season)

Second runner-up–Cameron Weihermuller-Francis and Ethan Stahl, Montoursville: Had it not been for these two reliable infielders stepping to fill the void left by Kutney’s injury, Montoursville might have been in trouble. Weihermuller-Francis flourished down the stretch and provided a turning point moment in Montoursville’s season while hitting nearly .500 over the last 12 games, driving in 11 runs and playing stellar defense. Stahl was outstanding at second base and provided some pop at the bottom of the order in the playoffs. Stahl hit safely in all four playoff games, closed the season on a five-game hitting streak and hit a two-run double in the district championship.

First runner-up–Tyler Bauder, Jersey Shore: Bauder will be one of the centerpieces moving forward for a team which was better than its record indicated but which dropped a series of close games. Bauder is a quality pitcher who shut down Montoursville for 6 1/3 innings before reaching his pitch-limit in the rivals’ first game. A versatile threat who can play multiple positions, Bauder also was one of Jersey Shore’s top hitters and was sitting at .450 halfway through the season. He has some power and ended his season strong, producing four hits in the last two games.

And the winner is…Ethan Nagy, Loyalsock: The exciting sophomore could be one of the area’s top players the next two seasons if he builds off this breakout season. Nagy is a fantastic shortstop who also brings the smoke on the mound, striking out 41 in 28 innings. Nagy closed out the Backyard Brawl semifinal win against Williamsport and compiled a 3.25 ERA. He also was a consistent hitter in the middle of Loyalsock’s lineup and batted .352 while compiling a .425 on-base percentage. He homered, drove in 15 runs and gives Loyalsock a good building block over these next two seasons.

Game of the Year

Second runner-up–Muncy 3, Southern Columbia 2: A year after dropping a heartbreaking district quarterfinal in 10 innings at Southern, Muncy earned a coveted rematch and exacted its revenge. Gio Persun and Branson Eyer homered with Eyer’s home run tying it in the sixth inning. Ross Eyer dominated in relief and Persun set the stage for the dramatic win when he slammed a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh. Sophomore Kadyn Berry scored him a batter later with a walk-off single as Muncy’s revenge tour gained momentum, gobbling up Sayre in the semifinals three days later.

First runner-up–Montoursville 7, Jersey Shore 6: Eck was going for his 200th win on this beautiful Friday afternoon, but Jersey Shore looked like it would play spoiler and led 6-1 entering the seventh inning. Dalena, though, blasted a three-run home run to make it a two-run game. After the tying runners reached base, Weihermuller-Francis came off the bench and provided the hit of his life while making his first high school home run quite memorable. Weihermuller-Francis drilled the go-ahead, three-run home run as Montoursville went up, 7-6. Llorente stranded the tying runner at third and Eck’s 200th win became one he will never forget.

And the winner is…St. John Neumann 9, Cowanesque Valley 6: Just like a year earlier, Neumann found itself in a dire situation in the postseason against CV. The 2021 team rallied from two down in the seventh inning to win the district championship 4-3 but the challenge was even more difficult this time with CV leading 6-1 after five. Unfazed, Neumann staged a rally which, considering how it had been shut down for five innings, was as unpredictable as it was exciting. JerVal Weeks-Shuler dominated in relief and the offense produced six hits over the last three innings as Neumann stormed back. Ryan Thompson hit a two-out, game-tying RBI single in the seventh before Weeks-Shuler stranded the winning run at third in the bottom half. Kane Wright then belted a two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning before closing it out on the mound as Neumann won one of the most thrilling games in program history.

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