SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT - The Montoursville fans didn't react well when Jim Corl told his pitcher Aaron Swartz to intentionally walk clean-up hitter Nolan Ott.
Can you blame Corl, though? Ott, in his previous at-bat, crushed a ball that cleared the high, green left-field wall at South Williamsport's Lions Field. And with Ronnie Cochran coming to plate, who was 0-for-2, after Ott, Corl decided to roll the dice.
The youngster shined brightly in the spotlight.
Cochran sent a sharp roller just past the outstretched arm of the Keystone shortstop, allowing pinch runner Josh Dinges to score the winning run in the bottom of the sixth in a 4-3 victory Saturday in a District 12 Major baseball consolation game.
Montoursville was eliminated last night by Newberry at East Lycoming. Keystone ends its all-star run with a 2-2 record.
It also assures District 12 of a new Major champion as Keystone had won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011. Jersey Shore/GSV won the Major championship in 2009.
"It's a great group of kids, and I enjoyed the last few weeks. It was a blast," Corl said. "It's a shame it had to end. But if you don't hit the baseball, you can't win the game. It's that simple."
Corl is the first to admit he thought quite often about the pitching situation.
He knew Keystone needed to win five games in a row, and admittedly, the squad was a little thin on hurlers.
That's why he limited starter Ethan Watkins to just 50 pitches, and the same with reliever A.J. Smith.
"I'm not the type of guy that looks forward, but the only chance that we had was to do that," Corl said. "We are so thin on pitching that we had to kind of jockey the pitchers around. E never would have went the distance anyway because he was already at 50 in the second inning. We got into position to win the game, but we just didn't hit."
Keystone had all the momentum.
Yet, the pivotal moment could have been the second batter into the game. Austyn Carson drew a five-pitch walk from Montoursville starter Ryan Kessler, moved one base on a wild pitch, and the next batter, Asher Corl, drilled a hard shot to second. Fielder John McCarthy made a nice play on the ball, and flicked it over to shortstop Ott for the double play - even though it looked like Carson had beat the throw to the bag.
Keystone's next batter, Watkins, drilled a shot that almost landed on the road for a solo homer. Instead of a 2-0 lead, the locals had just one run in.
"What are you doing to do?" Jim Corl said. "That's baseball, sometimes."
Down 3-0, Montoursville rallied.
Dinges reached first after a swinging strike three got past the catcher to start the fourth, and advanced to second on a throwing error. He later scored on Brandon Dyer's single.
One run in, and it seemed like all the pressure was off.
"Our kids have played a lot of baseball, so I wasn't too concerned," Montoursville manager Jason Phillips said. "The biggest thing between our coaches is to keep them up. We are dealing with 11- and 12-year-old kids. We want to keep their emotions in check and have them ready to play.
"We were still a little flat. We've already played five games, and another one coming in 24 hours. We are a little tired. When you score one run, it puts the kids at ease."
Ott's home run trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the fifth, and Marcus Neufer's long double off the wall scored pinch runner Issac Miller, knotting the game at 3.
Neufer did a nice job of retiring the side in the top of the sixth, setting up the dramatic conclusion.
"I told them to smile and have some fun. We had a chance to win it, and if we didn't, we'll play another inning," Phillips said.
Swartz got the first two outs before issuing a walk to Bryce Ranck. Jim Corl decided to give the free pass to Ott before Cochran's seeing-eye single to the outfield grass moved Montoursville forward.
"I'm very proud of the 12 kids," Phillips said. "Our pitchers threw strikes, and we got good defense when we needed it. You need to do all of those things to beat a quality team."
A quartet of Keystone pitchers held Montoursville to just six hits - four of them for extra bases. Swartz had two singles for Keystone, while seven of the 11 all-stars recorded hits.
"Our pitchers did exactly what we asked of them," coach Corl said. "They only gave up four runs. Montoursville is a tough team, and only giving up four runs, we were in a good position to win this one. We just didn't get enough big hits."
District 12 Major Baseball
Consolation Bracket at South
MONTOURSVILLE 4, KEYSTONE 3
K120 000 - 3 8 1
M000 121 - 4 6 0
K: Ethan Watkins, A.J. Smith (2), Jake Conklin (5), Aaron Swartz (5) and Asher Corl. M: Ryan Kessler, Marcus Neufer (5) and Charlie Steinbacher. WP - Neufer. LP - Swartz. HR: M, Nolan Ott. K, Watkins. 2B: M, Kessler, Neufer, John McCarthy. MH: K, Swartz 2.