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Jersey Shore holds off Sock-South for District 12 junior baseball title win

MARK NANCE/ For the Express Jersey Shore managed to hold off Sock-South for the District 12 Junior Division baseball championship Thursday night.

His coach experienced thoughts so nervewracking he could not accurately convey them. The pressure turned so high, Jersey Shore/GSV pitcher Landon Welshans experienced different emotions.

He was poised and confident.

As twilight encapsulated Short Park, Welshans delivered a signature moment and helped his team become a champion.

Welshans left the bases loaded, stranding the go-ahead runners, and Jersey Shore held off a furious Loyalsock-South Williamsport rally Thursday evening, winning a 14-12 thriller while capturing the District 12 Junior Division championship. Jersey Shore avenged a defeat from the previous night, erased a 4-0 first-inning deficit and earned a spot in the Section 3 tournament next week which will be held in New Berlin.

“They know this game well,” Jersey Shore manager John Winter said. “As long as they can keep their heads together it always works.”

Jersey Shore has done throughout its tournament run. It’s opening victory offered a preview of things to come when Jersey Shore rallied from six runs down and edged East Lycoming, 11-10. Jersey Shore scored six of those runs with two outs and remembered the lessons learned through that gutsy win well Thursday.

“They hang in there. They do what’s necessary and we came out on top,” Winter said. “They did a great job.”

Sock-South fought through the loser’s bracket to reach the final and defeated Jersey Shore, 12-4 Wednesday. Jersey Shore flipped the script, never flinching after Loyalsock opened the game with four quick runs. Jersey Shore collected 15 hits, scored runs in each inning it batted and made some critical defensive plays which ultimately may have made the difference. Anthony Orrico made one of those in the final inning, throwing out a runner at second for the second out on what looked like would be a Trace Wertz single.

Orrico, Mazden Lupton, Austin Rhinehart and Conner Fenstermacher all delivered three hits as well and Orrico stole six bases. Rhinehart smashed two doubles and drove in five runs while Mason Winter threw five gutsy innings to earn the win. Tucker Hanna came up big in relief in the sixth inning, allowing no hits after coming in with the bases loaded and no outs.

Jersey Shore led 14-7 entering the seventh inning, but Sock-South came roaring back. Preston Gross doubled and Sock-South stayed disciplined at the plate, drawing seven walks and making it 14-11 while loading the bases with one out. Wertz’s fielder’s choice into center field made it 14-12, but Orrico’s alert throw gave Jersey Shore the second out. A John Kiehl RBI walk made it 14-12 and the tying runs were on second and third, but Welshans came up with the pitch of his young life, inducing the game-ending popout to Lupton at second base.

“Logan Welshans does not have a lot of mound time but he’s a very capable ball player,” Winter said. “He came on the mound and finished the game strong.”

Although its comeback fell short, Sock-South showcased everything which made it such a good team throughout that rally. Sock-South won three straight games to reach Thursday’s game and handed Jersey Shore its only loss Wednesday.

Dropping a heartbreaker in the rematch does not diminish what this team achieved.

“They gave it their all. They decided they want to put it all out there the last couple innings and that’s what they did,” Loyalsock manager Matt Kiehl said. “That’s the way baseball is sometimes. Sometimes you get the breaks and sometimes you don’t get the breaks, but they have nothing to hang their heads about.”

Unfazed after falling behind 4-0, Jersey Shore scored two first-inning runs, another in the third and took the lead for good when it scored three in the third. Rhinehart produced five RBIs in the first four innings and his two-run, fourth-inning single put Jersey Shore up 9-4. Orrico and Lupton sparked the offense at the top of the lineup and combined for eight runs and 10 stolen bases. Fenstermacher hit an RBI single after Rhinehart was intentionally walked in the fifth inning and Hanna added a crucial RBI single in the sixth, putting Jersey Shore up 14-7 and providing an insurance run which loomed so large an inning later.

Chase Miller threw a complete-game three-hitter in Wednesday’s victory, but Jersey Shore came alive in a big way Thursday, producing multiple runs in five of its six at-bats. It also delivered at least one hit in every inning. Nine players also reached base and Lupton made a fantastic play in the hole between first and second base to end the first inning while giving Jersey Shore some momentum entering its first at-bat.

“Whenever we start stringing hits together we usually don’t stop,” Winter said. “There were a lot of big plays, too. There were a lot of key plays from my boys.”

Wertz and Gross each had two hits and two stolen bases for Loyalsock. Kellen Jackson drove in two runs and Chase Miller added a hit.

“We started out up 4-0 and I thought, ‘Here we go, we’re going to pick up right from last night,'” Kiehl said. “But you have to commend Jersey Shore. They came here to play some ball and they played some hard-fought ball.”

Sock-South 400 021 5–12 8 5

Jersey Shore 213 242 x–14 15 2

Levi Butler, John Kiehl (3), Remington Minier (6) and Kellen Jackson. Mason Winter, Tucker Hanna (6), Austin Rhinehart (7), Landon Welshans and Roman Pittar. W–Winter. L–Butler. SV–Welshans.

Top Loyalsock hitters: Trace Wertz 2-5, RBI, 2 R, 2 SBs; Preston Gross 2-2, 2B, RBI, 2 runs, 2 SB; Jackson 1-4, 2 RBIs, run; Chase Miller 1-2; Butler RBI, 2 runs, SB; Marc Molina 2 BB, RBI. Top Jersey Shore hitters: Anthony Orrico 3-3, RBI, 4 runs, 6 SBs; Mazden Lupton 3-4, RBI, 4 runs, 4 SBs; Rhinehart 3-3, 2 2Bs, 5 RBIs, run; Conner Fenstermacher 3-4, RBI; Hanna 2-3, RBI, run; Collin Berguson 1-2, 2B, run; Winter 2 BBs, 2 runs.

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