Jersey Shore falls at home to Loyalsock, 12-0

(MARK NANCE/FOR THE EXPRESS) Loyalsock's Grace Baylor slides under the tag of Jersey Shore catcher Alyssa Stover to score in the fourth inning at Jersey Shore on Thursday.

By CHRIS MASSE

For The Express

JERSEY SHORE-Bella Barone did not feel right as she took pregame batting practice swings. Something was off, but she did not know what.

Once the game started Barone figured it out, going 3 for 4 with four RBIs. And from the first pitch, everything felt right for, not just Barone, but all her teammates.

Loyalsock started strong, never let up and made a major statement Thursday, blanking defending District 4 Class AAAA champion Jersey Shore, 12-0 in five innings. The HAC-III champion Lancers (16-3) dominated all facets against the HAC-I champions, delivering 13 hits, making no errors and receiving three-hit pitching from Juliana Cruz. Summer McNulty went 4 for 4 with four RBIs and Loyalsock scored runs in every inning.

“We knew that they were going to be tough. We know them, we’ve played them before and we knew we had to come down here and do what we did,” Barone said. “We played really well.”

“I think we showed how well we can hit today,” right fielder Grace Shaible said after going 2 for 3 with a triple. “If we continue that we’ll be really good moving forward.”

Loyalsock looked downright dominant yesterday, scoring three runs in each of the first three innings and leading 10-0 by the fourth inning. The Lancers have won 13 of their last 14 games and powered through two all-star pitchers, belting nine hits in the first three innings. Seven players produced hits, eight reached base seven scored runs and Grace Baylor stole home, putting Loyalsock up, 10-0.

That Loyalsock hit well and won were not surprising. The defending District 4 Class AAA champions have done both well throughout the season. The shocking part was how one-sided this game between two of District 4’s most tradition-laden programs became. Jersey Shore had not been mercy-ruled by a District 4 opponent in more than five years, but Loyalsock took a 3-0 first-inning lead and never let it off the mat. By doing so, the Lancers avenged a one-run loss from last year and increased their chances of earning the district’s top playoff seed.

“I told them this is a big game. That’s the District 4 4A champ from last year and they’re really good, so we have to play well and they did that,” Loyalsock coach Mark Godfrey said. “Up and down, we hit the ball, we played good defense and Jules pitched a great game. I’m excited that we played so well.”

On a day when Loyalsock showed off its collective hitting power, it was a Cruz bunt single that ignited the first-inning rally. The speedy senior set the tone when she beat that bunt out and stole second. McNulty singled, Sam Stopper hit an RBI fielder’s choice and Barone roped a two-run single as Loyalsock went up, 3-0. An inning later, it was McNulty, Stopper and Barone again driving in runs as Loyalsock went up, 6-0 and quieted a big crowd that lined the bleachers and the base lines.

McNulty slammed an RBI double, Stopper ripped a triple to deep right fielder and Barone followed with an RBI single. There was no let-up in the third inning either as Shaible tripled, Teghan Taylor hit an RBI grounder and McNulty laced a two-run single. Mari Houseknecht tripled an inning later and Baylor pinch-ran stealing home with two outs. McNulty and Barone capped their big days in the fifth inning, each hitting RBI singles.

McNulty and Stopper earned all-state honors last year and Barone is building quite a resume this season. The junior has driven in at least one run in seven of her last eight games and produced multiple RBIs for the sixth time during that span against Jersey Shore.

“All throughout our lineup is solid hitters. I have faith in every single one of them,” Barone said. “It’s a lot of team stuff. We’ve worked really hard. Everyone has a lot of confidence this year and everything is working well.”

Shaible has quickly become a weapon near the bottom of the order and continues making good plays after learning a new position in right field. The freshman has hit safely in six straight games and produced her fourth multi-hit performance during that time. She, Taylor and Maegan Reitz keep the pressure on opposing pitchers and Reitz continued her strong week, going 2 for 3.

Jersey Shore did not hit many balls into the outfield, but Shaible and Reitz, in center field, quickly tracked down the ones that were hit out there. A week after throwing a runner out at home with a laser-like throw, Shaible read a Lexi Schuler two-out liner in the fourth inning, running back and making a good catch that saved a run.

“I definitely feel more comfortable. With all the reps and at-bats that I’ve had, going into the postseason I feel a lot more comfortable than I would at any other time,” Shaible said. “I’m having a really good time. Maegan really helps me in the outfield a lot. She directs me out there and that’s really helpful, too.”

“Grace has been big. She’s such a sponge of learning,” Godfrey said. “She’s getting better and better in the outfield. She’s a great kid and is doing a really nice job.”

Jersey Shore defeated Loyalsock, 11-10 a year ago but never could generate any offensive consistently yesterday. Cruz threw 4 2/3 one-hit innings and the Bulldogs did not have a runner advance past first until the fifth inning. Jersey Shore hit some balls hard, but Loyalsock’s defense made all the plays. The Bulldogs lost their second straight but all their main goals are still there for the taking if they keep moving forward.

That is exactly what Cruz did after allowing a one-out, first-inning single, not allowing another hit until there were two outs in the fifth. The senior left-hander has allowed just seven hits against Selinsgrove and Jersey Shore, teams averaging close to 10 runs per game, in her last two starts and skillfully moved her pitches around, working in perfect harmony with McNulty, a first-time catcher.

“Jules is really tough and she pitched lights out and Summer called a really good game,” Godfrey said. “You have to go in and out and she’s getting better and better at that.”

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