SUN-GAZETTEFILEPHOTOLoyalsock players pile on each other after winning the 2013 PIAAClassAA championship in State College against Beaver, 5-4.
Coach Jeremy Eck gathered his players in the Loyalsock gym this Friday morning not to talk last-minute strategy, but to provide a history lesson.
Loyalsock would compete against Beaver late that afternoon for the Class AA state championship at Penn States Medlar Field. Eck wanted his players looking around at all the championship banners surrounding them and pay close attention to the 2008 baseball state championship one. His Lancers now had a unique shot at gaining high school immortality.
As Bailey Young drove a pitch into right field and Caleb Robbins rounded third base that moment was at hand. Robbins sprinted home and Loyalsock entered the hallowed halls which few high school teams ever walk. For the second time in program history, Loyalsock was a state champion.
Youngs walk-off single scored Robbins from second and Loyalsock defeated Beaver, 5-4, in one of the most exciting state title games in PIAA history. Beaver had tied it with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Loyalsock immediately fought back and Young lived a dream so many have but never get to experience.
Ill be talking about this year for years, Young said as Loyalsock received their gold medals. Its a great feeling.
Im speechless. Im stuttering right now, shortstop Ethan Moore, the teams lone starting senior, said. Its been a long road. Just to be here looking at this field, I keep asking all the players if we just won states. Its unbelievable.
It really was.
Loyalsock returned a strong group from a 2012 district champion, but was hit hard by injuries throughout the season. The Lancers persevered, then survived one-run games against Towanda and Montoursville, but Hughesville defeated it, 7-5, in a nine-inning district final. It was a crushing loss, one that can be hard to recover from. The Lancers still qualified for states, but would have to go through four district champions which finished their seasons a combined, 81-9.
Against the odds, that is what they did. Loyalsock outscored Lakeland, Delone Catholic and 25-win Salisbury, 23-6 en route to reaching the state final. It erased a four-run fourth-inning deficit against Delone and hammered a Salisbury team with just one loss, 8-1. At the most crucial time, the Lancers rallied around each other and played their best baseball.
I dont think we caught a break all year. We had injuries everywhere. We had some losses from the team, but we pulled through and came together as one, third baseman Tommy Baggett said after going 1 for 2 with two RBIs against Beaver. Everyone steps up at the right time. Whoever is up there, they step up and get the job done.
It was a similar formula which would get Loyalsock past a 24-win Beaver team which had won 17 straight games. Beaver had not allowed a run in three state tournament victories and surrendered just two runs in its six previous games. Radford-bound pitcher Austin Ross had been untouchable, but Loyalsock showed early that it was not like Beavers victims. The Lancers scored a second-inning run to tie the game and then struck twice in the third, taking a 3-1 lead. After Luke Glavins two-out RBI single tied it in the second, Kyle Datres smashed a double and scored a batter later when Jimmy Webb belted an RBI double. Baggett hit a sacrifice fly to score Webb and Loyalsock seemed to be picking up where it had left off against Salisbury.
Datres pitched a complete game, striking out seven and allowing just two earned runs, but Beaver scored twice in the fourth and tied it, 3-3. Again Loyalsock answered. Moore reached on an error, Robbie Klein singled and Baggetts RBI single put it up, 4-3. It stayed that way until the seventh when Loyalsock moved within one out of its second state title. Instead, Nick Hineman hit an RBI single and tied the game. Datres ended the rally with a strikeout but Beaver had the momentum now.
This 2013 season had been about overcoming a series of obstacles and it was time for Loyalsock to clear its final one. Klein was hit by a pitch to open the seventh and Moore came up with only one goal. The team leader had delivered timely hits all year and came up huge again without producing a hit.
In the bottom of the seventh he (Eck) said if Robbie gets on you have one job and thats to get the bunt down, Moore said. I said Damn right. Im getting that bunt down, were moving him over and were winning this game.'
Moore did his part, dropping the bunt exactly where it had to go and moving Robbins, running for Klein, to second. Baggett was intentionally walked and now it was time for Young and Robbins to fulfill Moores promise.
Young had hit a go-ahead sixth-inning RBI single in the semifinals against Montoursville and drilled two doubles against Salisbury. He was heating up at the right time and never doubted himself, even after falling behind Ross 0-2. Young fouled off three straight pitches and then destiny came calling in the form of a fastball on the outside corner. Young went with the pitch, drove it the opposite way to right field, rounded first and watched Robbins complete the run of his life. Robbins was moving faster than ever and there was no play at the plate with the relay throw being cut off. The team surrounded by championship banners that morning now had one of the most unique, becoming state champions.
I told them this morning that if we win this one, we walk together forever, Eck said while holding his young son Elijah. I asked them how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be a good team that got to the state final or do you want to hang on that wall for the rest of your life? They showed us what its all about. It really is a dream come true. Every one of these guys has so much heart and theyre all gamers.
Young epitomized Loyalsocks drive and selflessness that year. Eck had replaced him with Evan Moore at catcher during the Delone game, moving him to DH. Young never sulked and continued working and producing. After shining against Salisbury the next game, Young delivered the hit of his life and biggest in this illustrious programs history.
Once I saw the throw come in I looked back at home and saw him score. The first person I saw coming at me was Kyle Datres. He told me I was going to get a hit that at-bat and it gave me confidence, Young said. This is amazing. You cant explain the feeling after a state championship win.
What an unbelievable way to end the season, Robbins said. I was scoring no matter what. It was pure adrenaline. As soon as I touched third base I was running as fast as I could. I had to do it for our town and my for my family and my pop. I cant find the words to explain it. It was so awesome.
A year later, Loyalsock returned to Penn State and became just the third Class AA team in PIAA history to repeat as state champions, defeating Central, 5-1. That team also overcame injuries and adversity, rallying from an 8-5 start and winning its final 15 games.
Many of those Lancers played for the 2013 state champion. They knew anything was possible if they continued fighting. Just as important as that title banner those 2013 Lancers earned was the example they set, one that helps the program continue flourishing to this day.
It was a Cinderella story, Robbins said. Were never going to forget this moment and this experience.
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