---- — By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- The new-wave baseball thinking says that clutch doesn't really exist.
The Hughesville baseball team would argue that point after Thursday's District 4 Class AA semifinal with Southern Columbia at Historic Bowman Field.
The Spartans got back-to-back two-out, two-run singles in the third inning and escaped two bases-loaded jams late in the game to earn the school's first trip to the district championship with a 6-1 victory over the Tigers.
"We didn't get the big hit when we needed too," Southern Columbia coach Randy Young said. "They weren't exactly peppering (Southern pitcher Matt Klock), but they did what they needed to do. They got the hits when they needed them and we didn't."
Hughesville has won 11 of 12 games, including six consecutive. The Spartans have allowed just one unearned run in its last four games -- spanning its final regular-season game and three district playoff games. Hughesville improves to 16-7, which is the most wins in program history. The Spartans will face the winner of last night's nightcap in Williamsport between Loyalsock and Montoursville, today at Bowman Field. The win also gives Hughesville its first-ever trip to the PIAA playoffs.
Southern Columbia had its nine-game winning streak snapped and finishes the season at 17-6.
The Tigers' starter Matt Klock struggled early with his control, needing 44 pitches to get through the first two innings scoreless. It came back to haunt the righty in the third.
With one out, a hit batter, a single and a walk loaded the bases for Hughesville. After fielder's choice erased a runner at home for the second out, Jason Stroup lined a two-run single to give Hughesville a 2-0 lead.
Stroup moved to second on a throw and designated hitter Zach Fry followed with another two-run single to give the Spartans a 4-0 lead.
After throwing 69 pitches in the first three innings, Klock settled in throwing 28 pitches in the next three innings, before tiring in the seventh and allowing two more runs. He finished the game with three strikeouts, four walks and three hit batters.
"I thought Matt pitched well enough to win the game, they certainly didn't hit very many balls hard against him," Young said.
Hughesville starter Justin Lambert cruised through the first four innings, allowing just one hit and three base runners. He finally ran into trouble in the fifth when a walk, a hit batter and a single by catcher Taylor Young loaded the bases with two outs for No. 3 hitter Garrett Sosnoski. On the first pitch to Sosnoski, the courtesy runner for Young broke for an occupied second base and was picked off to end the inning by the Spartans.
"You can't single out the kids. We didn't put the bat on the ball like we thought we would (today), so I was disappointed in our offense," Young said. "I'm not going to beat the kid up. He's was tougher on himself than I would have been. He felt really bad."
Then with one out in the bottom of the sixth, the Tigers threatened again. Two errors and a single put runners on second and third. Lambert was lifted after 95 pitches for lefty Sadiq Bukholder.
Burkholder struggled with his command, walking back-to-back hitters to pull Southern Columbia to 4-1. He went to a 2-1 count to the next hitter before inducing a double-play grounder to end the Tigers' final threat of the game.