The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 18, 2013

Little League Baseball: South Columbia stays alive

Daily Item

---- — By Anthony Mitchell

For The Daily Item

NORTHUMBERLAND -- South Columbia continues to find a way to grab wins.

The 9-10 Division team, which was labeled "The Cardiac Kids" during their game against Keystone on Wednesday, has come from behind in both of its wins in the Section 3 tournament.

With the way the game ended -- in an 11-10 victory for South Columbia, it seems like an appropriate moniker.

South Columbia was forced to sweat out another tight victory over Keystone, pounding out 14 hits and needing every one of them.

South Columbia has sandwiched a loss to Upper Dauphin between two close contests with Keystone, both decided by a single run. In the end, South Columbia had just enough fight to pull out a win and keep playing.

"(My players) did what they had to do," South Columbia manager Don Harris said. "They battled and battled and batted. I'm proud of them."

Harris' team showed their ability to quickly put a loss behind them and bounce back to pick up a victory.

"We've just got to win one night at a time," Harris said. "Sometimes when our back's against the wall, (my players) know what they have to do."

As in its previous meeting with Keystone, South Columbia had to claw its way out of a hole twice offensively, but found hits when it mattered most.

Keystone's Rocco Stark kept South Columbia on its toes defensively, smashing two home runs and driving in six runs. But the District 13 champions hung tough.

"I'm proud of all (my players)," Keystone manager Kreg Stark said. "They battled. The expectations were met. A district title, that was our goal. Anything after that was just a learning experience."

South Columbia held a three-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, but considering their first matchup, the game was far from over.

A lead-off single from Colton Wagner helped to ensure that Stark would see one final at-bat as arguably the most feared hitter in the Keystone lineup. Dylan Devlin set down Benny Knecht and Kaden Falls to bring Stark to the plate as Keystone's last hope.

Down three and with one runner on base, Stark could not tie the game with one swing but he tried to, blasting a two-run home run to deep center field to cut the South Columbia lead to one, 11-10.

Zane Probst grounded out to preserve a South Columbia win that was anything but straightforward.

South Columbia scored four in the top of the fifth to take the lead.

Dylan Devlin tied the game at eight with a single down the line, scoring Jacob Reifer from first on the play, who was hustling from the crack of the bat.

After Devlin and Zach Smith scored to push the lead to 10-8, Ben Montgomery laced a triple to center. Montgomery scored on a Trystan Crawford single and Montgomery was the offensive catalyst for South Columbia.

Montgomery struggled on the mound in 4 1/3 innings but found no such hiccups at the plate, going 3-for-4, including a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

Early in the game, it appeared that South Columbia and Keystone were starting a pitchers' duel between Montgomery and Colton Wagner. Neither team pushed across a run in the first two innings despite both teams having a runner 60 feet away.

South Columbia broke the scoreless tie with two runs in the top of the third, nearly scoring three as Montgomery was thrown out on a play at the plate to end the inning.

South Columbia plated five runs in the fourth inning, but consecutive four-run frames by Keystone gave them a one-run advantage.

In the fourth, home runs by Montgomery and Eli Morrison helped South Columbia regain the lead.

South Columbia will play Upper Dauphin today at 5:30 back at Pineknotter Park; they'll need to beat Upper Dauphin twice to earn the section title.