High School Sports

High school baseball: Loyalsock defends PIAA title, ends Central’s unbeaten season

There was no perfect ending to the perfect season for the Central baseball team.

Loyalsock and pitcher Kyle Datres made sure of that.

“That kid threw a heck of a game,” Scarlet Dragons center fielder Zach Slagenweit said. “He’s thrown over 200 pitches his last two games. He brought it and they beat us.”

The defending state champion Lancers kept the title in Lycoming County, and hauled home their third state crown in the last seven seasons with a 5-1 victory in the PIAA Class AA Championship game Friday afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Datres made sure of that, striking out six, walking one and giving up five hits and just the one run in the complete-game victory for the Lancers (23-5).

“I figured this was my last time,” Datres said, “so I’m going to give it everything I have. My arm’s shot about now, but it was worth it for the team.”

Datres (8-2) came back from pitching in Monday’s semifinal victory over Neumann-Goretti with another strong effort. After a slow start through the first two innings, the junior who has given a verbal commitment to North Carolina, faced just two batters over the minimum over the final five frames, needing 103 pitches to end it.

“We hit the ball well,” Central coach AJ Hoenstine said. “What do you do? I couldn’t ask for better approaches from our guys at the plate against an outstanding pitcher.”

His fastball was hovering in the upper 80s, and he topped out at 92 mph on his next-to-last pitch.

“That’s when I feel my best,” Datres said. “The first couple innings I always struggle, and as I go on and go on, my legs were getting a little sore, but that’s when I feel my best. I feel comfortable out there.”

Datres also helped himself at the plate, going 3 for 3 and scoring twice for half his team’s hits. No. 2 batter Jimmy Webb was 2 for 3 with a double and also scored twice.

Mike Mock (11-1) started on the mound for Central (25-1) and struggled, giving up six hits, five earned runs, four walks, four hit batters and two wild pitches with two strikeouts.

“I think he was frustrated,” Slagenweit said. “That kid’s been the heart-and-soul of this team. He’s been our stud pitcher and he pitched a hell of a game. He had a hell of a season.”

Initially Hoenstine had Ethan Lewis scheduled to start after Mock had pitched in their semifinal, but changed Hoenstine changed his mind in the minutes before the game.

“Mock said he was feeling pretty good,” Hoenstine said. “We were going to bring Lewis in in the middle innings if we needed to.”

Jay Stern was 2 for 3 to lead the Dragons, who were hurt by having three runners caught stealing.

“I’m not second-guessing,” Hoenstine said. “We’d keep running. You’re not going to string three or four hits together against Datres.”

“That just kills their rhythm,” Lancers catcher Evan Moore said. “It’s just like us, when they get going, that’s the type of team they are. When they get one run, they can get five. So it’s good that we ended their rhythm before it started, honestly.”

Central scored its run in the bottom of the second. Nick Hoenstine started it with a one-out chopper over the mound that he beat out for an infield single, and Josh McKnight followed with a double just inside third base. Brenden Volkhommer then hit a grounder to shortstop Nate Krizan that erased McKnight at third but brought home Hoenstine.

“We felt pretty confident just to get a run off him,” Slagenweit said. “We thought we shut the door, but they put the ball in play and they hit. We couldn’t hold them.”

The Lancers answered in the top of the third with their first two hits and a walk to load the bases. A walk to Robbie Kline brought in the first run, a Tommy Baggett sacrifice fly brought in the second and a chopper in front of the plate by Joe Balawajder, with no one covering first, plated the third.

Datres reached on a one-out single in the top of the fourth, then took off on a long fly-out to center by Webb. Datres was well past second base when the ball was caught and scrambled back to first. The relay throw hit him as he slid back into the bag and bounced away, then another throw sailed over second base letting Datres get to third. Head coach Jeremy Eck was waving him in to score, but Datres was out of gas and stopped there. He was lifted for a pinch runner but he never scored.

“I probably shouldn’t have (gone) as far as I did on the original hit, but I did and I had to go back to first,” Datres said. “I should have scored but I was too tired. They put a runner in for me. I had to go take a break there on the bench for a second.”

With the quick breather, Datres didn’t show any ill effects of the crazy play when he returned to the mound the next inning.

“I got a good break in there,” Datres said. “I usually don’t like when people run for me, but in that scenario it was all right.”

Loyalsock added an insurance run in the sixth when Datres singled with two out, stole second and scored on Webb’s triple off the wall in right-center. Webb then scampered home on a wild pitch.

It was the third time the program from Martinsburg had gotten to the state title game, but the Dragons have come up empty each time.

“Not many teams have done that,” Slagenweit said. “Our school’s never had a state championship and that would have meant a lot for us.”