UNIVERSITY PARK - Kyle Datres kept Central from getting many runners on base.
Evan Moore was taking care of those Scarlet Dragons that did.
That was the bottom line on Friday at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, as the Dragons' bid to end a perfect season with a PIAA Class AA championship came up short in a 5-1 setback at the hands of Loyalsock, the defending state champion.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
A tearful Bradi Moore and the rest of the Central baseball team listen to coach A.J. Hoenstine following the loss.
"We made minor mistakes, and sometimes that comes back to bite you. It just wasn't our day," said Dragon senior Ethan Lewis, the team's right fielder and one of three captains. "We're really proud of ourselves, but this was our ultimate goal. We really would have liked to capitalize on this, but we couldn't do it."
"Those small things they took advantage of. Usually we try to jump on them, but we couldn't do that today. We didn't have the bats today. He was a really good pitcher."
"He" was Datres, Loyalsock's superstar junior right-hander. Throwing a fastball in the low 90s even in the seventh inning, he limited Central, which had been averaging more than 11 runs per game coming in and had scored 31 in its last two state playoff games, to just five hits, and only three of the Dragons' outs made it to the outfield.
"He was definitely the best pitcher we've seen all year," Dragon senior leftfielder Bradi Moore said. "He definitely was the difference in the game."
"Unbelievable, like he always is. Every time he goes out there, you can count on him throwing seven innings of good baseball," said Loyalsock catcher Evan Moore.
The North Carolina recruit only struck out six, but we walked just one.
"That kid threw a heck of a game. He's thrown more than 200 pitches their last two games. He brought it. He beat us," Central senior centerfielder Zach Slagenweit said. "His curveball was good (too). We put the ball in play, but he's a great pitcher."
Seventy of Datres' 103 pitches were for strikes.
"Whenever I could get ahead in the count with first-pitch strikes, after that I could come back with offspeed pitches. I could throw whatever I wanted as long as I got ahead in the count," Datres said.
Central's only run came in the second inning, when Nick Hoenstine had a one-out single and went to third on Josh McKnight's hit-and-run double down the left-field line. He scored on Brenden Vollkommer's groundout to make it 1-0.
Junior Jay Stern was 2-for-3 against Datres.
"He was throwing really hard, so I just got set really early and tried to jump on a fastball," Stern said.
While Datres was holding down one facet of the offense that made Central so dangerous this season, his catcher was putting a crimp in the Scarlet Dragons' running game. Central entered the contest having stolen 102 bases in 124 attempts this year, but Moore threw out all three Dragons attempting to steal in the first four innings, although a couple of the plays were close and it looked like the tag missed Bradi Moore when we went with one out after being hit by a pitch to being the bottom of the fourth.
"Our coaching staff told us this team was going to run more than anyone that we've played, so I knew I had to be quick with my throws," Evan Moore said. "Honestly, all I was thinking was about throwing it. I had more pressure on me that usual. Once I got that first guy out, I got more confident."
"We had four guys thrown out on the bases, and I think three of them could have been called safe. But it's baseball, and that's the way it goes. It's a good umpiring crew," said Central coach A.J. Hoenstine, who questioned the third base umpire after Nick Hoenstine was called out at third on Vollkommer's RBI grounder to short. "I'm not second guessing. We would keep running. You're not going to string three or four hits together against Datres."
Datres also benefitted from some other great plays in the field. The biggest came in the fourth. After Bradi Moore was hit, Mike Mock appeared to have burned Lancer rightfielder Jimmy Webb, and it looked like Central was going to have the deficit down to 3-2 with a runner in scoring position and no outs. Webb, though, hauled in the fly over his shoulder while closing in on the warning track.
"They hit the ball hard. We made some great plays," Loyalsock coach Jeremy Eck said. "We just made the plays when it mattered most."
The Lancers (23-5) got all the runs they needed in the top of the third, when Datres led off with the first of his three two-strike singles. Webb followed with an infield single and Phil Krizan walked to load the bases for Robbie Klein, who also walked to tie the game at one.
Tommy Baggett's sacrifice fly plated Webb with the go-ahead run before Joey Balawajder's attempted suicide squeeze wound up being the perfect RBI bunt single.
"The first thing I wrote on the scouting report was that we can't give up the big inning, and then they put up a three-spot," A.J. Hoenstine said.
Hoenstine said he still felt good being in a 3-1 game, which Slagenweit helped preserve with a tremendous catch in the left-center gap in the fourth. The Lancers, though, scored two more in the sixth after Mock retired the first two batters. Datres singled and Webb tripled before scoring himself on a wild pitch.
"The advantage we had coming in today was that we had been here last year. We knew what it was going to be like," Datres said. "Last year, we got behind 1-0 against Beaver. So we knew what it took. I told the guys if they'd get me a lead, I'd keep it for them."
Datres and Webb accounted for five of Loyalsock's six hits, all off Mock, who pitched the first six innings before turning it over to Austin Cunningham for the seventh.
Mock, who had a 0.67 ERA entering the contest, flirted with danger much of the way, though. He hit four batters over his six innings and picked Datres off first before Central turned a bases-loaded double play to end the opening inning.
"We wanted to throw them inside. I think a couple of (the hit batters) were curveballs inside that just got away from him. They were tight in the plate, and we were going to throw in on their hands," A.J. Hoenstine said. "They hit one ball nice to the gap, but they weren't hitting Mike really well. Mike's a gamer."
Central finished the season 24-1.
"It really would have capped it off nice, but it wasn't meant to be," Slagenweit said.
LOYALSOCK (3): Datres p 323, N. Young cr 000, Webb rf 322, P. Krizan 2b 210, Klein lf 200, Baggett 1b 300, Balawajder 3b 201, B. Young dh 300, N. Krizan ss 000, Moore c 300, DiFrancesco cf 200. Totals - 23-5-6.
CENTRAL (1): Cunningham ss-p 100, Lewis rf 300, Stern 1b 302, Ponder pr 000, Knepp 1b 000, Moore lf 200, Mock p-ss 301, Hoenstine 2b 311, McKnight dh 201, Frederick ph 100, Vollkommer 3b 300, Slagenweit cf 300. Totals - 24-1-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Loyalsock003 002 0-5 6 1
Central010 000 0-1 5 3
E-Ritchey, Cunningham, Mock, N. Krizan. DP-Central, Loyalsock. LOB-Loyalsock 7, Central 5. 2B-McKnight. 3B-Webb. HR-. RBI-Vollkommer, Klein, Baggett, Balawajder, Webb. SF-Baggett. SB-Datres. CS-Cunningham 2, Moore, DiFrancesco. PO-Datres.
Loyalsock: Datres (W)-6 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 SO.
Central: Mock (L)-6 IP, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 2 SO; Cunningham-1 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 SO.
HBP-By Mock (Datres, Klein, Young, Balawajder), by Datres (Cunningham, Moore), by Cunningham (Balawajder). WP-Mock 2.
Webb was awarded first base on catcher's interference.
Records: Loyalsock (23-5); Central (24-1).
Umpires: Michael Campbell, plate; Terrance Bean, first; Chad Weaver, second; Joe Shick, third.