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Montoursville defeats Jersey Shore baseball, 10-0

Leaving Florida behind and arriving at a school where he knew no one, AJ Llorente could have felt lost. Almost immediately he felt something quite different.

Between the start of the school year and baseball season, Llorente felt like he was home again. And pitching in conditions he never experienced while playing in Florida, Llorente looked right at home Friday against visiting Jersey Shore.

Neither the Bulldogs, 40 mile per hour winds or two rain delays could shake Llorente who threw a masterful one-hit shutout and drove in two runs to help Montoursville blank Jersey Shore, 10-0 in five innings. Llorente moved into a tie for the area lead in wins, improving to 5-0 as Montoursville (8-3) won its third straight game and scored at least one run in all five innings.

“It’s been awesome. I couldn’t be happier,” Llorente said. “It definitely feels like home. I love everyone here.”

That feeling is mutual.

Llorente quickly made friends and was welcomed with open arms into the Montoursville baseball family. Watching him interact, one would never know he is a first-time Warrior who grew up in Florida.

Llorente coming to Montoursville was serendipitous, too, because the Warriors had a large pitching void to fill. The junior right-hander has delivered in every outing, not allowing more than three runs in a start. This week he surrendered just three hits and no earned runs as Montoursville regained its early-season momentum.

“Any time you have a kid that can come in and help you the kids gravitate that. He’s a laid back, down to earth kid,” Montoursville coach Jeremy Eck said. “I was more worried about him coming into this environment as far as these conditions and weather.”

The first time Montoursville practiced this season, it was snow flurrying but Llorente was throwing in a t-shirt. Snow, sun, rain … whatever the weather, Llorente can handle it and he was brilliant against Jersey Shore (3-7). Skillfully locating his fastball on the corners and keeping Jersey Shore guessing with excellent off-speed pitches, Llorente threw 3 2/3 no-hit innings, never let a runner reach third base and struck out seven.

Llorente walked two but went to a three-ball count just one other time. He threw an efficient 59 pitches and closed his performance by retiring Jersey Shore on six in the fifth inning. That included Llorente striking out his final batter on three pitches.

“I wanted it so bad today. I felt real good,” Llorente said. “My off-speed was there and I was able to spot my fastball. It was tough at times (with the weather) and it took a couple pitches to get loose. I just had to adapt.”

“We were wondering what we were going to do for pitching and he has come up huge,” Llorente said. “The kids really like him. He’s at home now. He’s happy and we’re happy to have him.”

That went double when Llorente set the offensive tone and hit a first-inning two-out RBI single. CJ Signor was hit by a pitch two batters later, capping the two-run rally. Montoursville again delivered with two outs in the second inning when Maddix Dalena (2 for 2) scorched a two-run single and made it 4-0. The key two-out hits kept coming an inning later when Grayson Rinker made it 5-0 and slammed a double into swirling winds in the right-center field gap as rain started coming down hard.

Montoursville scored seven of its 10 runs with two outs and Dylan Moll hit an RBI single in the fourth inning before Signor settled for a long sacrifice fly after the winds likely blew back what would have been a 2-run home run.

“We talk about that stuff all the time, especially the two-strike approach,” Eck said. “I’m extremely happy with these guys finding a way to get it done there.”

Rinker is enjoying an excellent sophomore season. He was pitching well at the season’s start and is now settling in as an offensive threat. Rinker went 2 for 2 and drew an RBI walk after battling back from 1-2 and fouling off three pitches. Rinker also was involved in the second-inning rally, hitting a leadoff single and scoring on Dalena’s two-run single.

“He loves the game and he plays the game the right way,” Eck said. “Anything you ask, he just does. It’s fantastic.”

Kooper Peacock broke up Llorente’s no-hitter when he hit a two-out, fourth-inning single. Cayden Hess gave Peacock a chance to deliver the hit when he battled back from down 0-2 and drew a walk. Connor Griffin tried igniting a second-inning rally when he walked and stole second but Llorente stranded him there with a three-pitch strikeout.

Jersey Shore 000 00–0 1 1

Montoursville 221 41–10 7 0

Tyler Bauder, Nate Myers and Zach Hinds. AJ Llorente and CJ Signor. W–Llorente, (5-0). L–Bauder.

Top Jersey Shore hitters: Kooper Peacock 1-2. Top Montoursville hitters: Maddix Dalena 2-2, BB, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Grayson Rinker 2-2, 2B, 2 RBIs, run; Llorente 1-3, BB, 2 RBIs, run; Dylan Moll 1-1, BB, RBI, run; Josh Burger 1-3, BB, 2 runs; Signor 2 RBIs.

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