By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
Bill Clark was talking about the Heartland-II baseball hierarchy when his mock agony was finally broken by laughter.
Laughing sure beats the alternative.
Clark's Shamokin squad had to grind to make the postseason last year -- achieving the qualifying minimum of a .500 record with a win in its regular-season finale -- only to be thrown into the fire of the District 4 Class AAA playoffs.
That's a classification above what the Indians play most often in HAC-II. But even a date with two-time defending Class AAA champ Jersey Shore wasn't as daunting as some of their division games.
After all, HAC-II featured last season's Class AA state champion in Loyalsock; the District 4 Class AA champion, Hughesville, which beat Loyalsock for the title; and South Williamsport, a team that finished one win behind Loyalsock for the HAC-II crown.
"We had a nice season in a competitive league," Clark deadpanned.
Truly, HAC-II is no joke.
"I would put it up against any league in the state of Pennsylvania," said Central Columbia coach Brett Sarnoski. "There are so many quality teams."
Loyalsock is the favorite to repeat in the division -- if not the state -- with three junior ACC recruits leading the way.
Shortstop/pitcher Kyle Datres is committed to North Carolina, pitcher Luke Glavin is pledged to Duke, and outfielder Jimmy Webb is ticketed for Wake Forest. Corner infielder Tommy Baggett and catcher Evan Moore, two more juniors, give the Lancers at least five Division I prospects. And they have a returning all-state outfielder in senior Robbie Klein.
"These kids have been groomed since they were little. It's been their dream to play major college baseball and they worked extremely hard. That's paying off for our program," said Lancers coach Jeremy Eck. "That said, they've still got to come out and perform. The biggest concern as a coaching staff is we cannot let these guys get complacent."