Kelby Mullen, Zach Meyer, Lucas Hatton, Derek Wilkins and Conner Wylie all started in the winter as the Sullivan County boys basketball team won a program-record 23 games and reached the state tournament's second round. A year ago, all five helped the team capture the school's first district championship in any sport. All five are excellent basketball players.
They also are good baseball players. And that quintet knows how to make history in that sport as well.
All five were key members of last year's baseball team which set a program record for wins, won the program's first playoff game and came within an out of beating state finalist Montgomery in the district semifinals. Now they, and the other Griffin baseball players, want another piece of history. They are seeking to become the program's first to reach districts in consecutive years.
"I tell them all the time I'd love to see them do it for themselves, do it for the school, do it for the coaches, but just do it," Sullivan coach Walt Tubach said. "We want them to be that first team in history to go to back-to-back playoffs. I just don't think they know how good they can be."
Sullivan started showing how strong it can be Thursday when it defeated perennial District 4 Class A power Muncy, 2-1. Meyer threw a complete-game three-hitter and Hatton scored what turned out to be the winning run in the third inning after drawing a two-out walk and stealing second. It was just the tonic the Griffins needed after starting 0-3.
Sullivan has a strong core back from last year's 13-win team and showed promise in those games, but stranded too many runners against teams that are a combined 8-3. Meyer, however, dominated Muncy, the defense played a flawless game and Derek Farrell hit a huge, momentum-shifting home run as the Griffins broke out against a strong team that has reached the postseason every year this century.
Dr. Masse's Top 5
1. South Williamsport (4-0)
Talk about an impressive opening statement. The Mounties, replacing six starters from last year's state qualifier, downed defending District 4 Class AA champion Loyalsock, 9-5 Friday and have beaten three of the district's premier teams thus far. South has outscored four good teams, all .500 or better, 42-6 and is playing well in all facets. South became just the second District 4 team in 24 games to beat Loyalsock and showed as much about its toughness as talent, overcoming an early three-run deficit. Pitchers Tyler House, Billy Rummings and Cody Nelson all have been solid with the first two going 4-0 and Nelson allowing just one run in six innings. South is the only unbeaten team remaining in the rugged HAC-II.
2. Montoursville (3-1)
Nobody likes to lose but a 5-2 opening-day loss at Shikellamy might have been a good wakeup call for the Warriors. They stranded 12 baserunners that day but have surged since then. Montoursville hits well throughout the lineup and also has a nice bench. The Warriors also are hungry and now are taking nothing for granted.
"We had high expectations for the season and that really brought us back down to earth," catcher Cameron Ott said after going 2 for 2 with a home run against Jersey Shore. "It really humbled us and we knew we had to get better and just have to keep working hard and improving."
3. Loyalsock (3-1)
The Lancers took a tough loss to Jersey Shore last year before rattling off 14 straight wins. They are loaded with talented players and time will tell what they take from Friday's loss. Loyalsock scored 42 runs in its first three wins, taking each game in five innings. Jimmy Webb went 3 for 4 with a grand slam and six RBIs in a 16-2 win over Mount Carmel.
4. Williamsport (4-0)
The Millionaires are enduring a long layoff before hosting Bald Eagle Area Wednesday for their first in-state game. That will make it 13 days since Williamsport last played, beating West Springfield, Va., 9-8. Williamsport's lone game last week against Danville was rained out. The Millionaires came from behind to win their last two games.
5. Jersey Shore (3-1)
The Bulldogs have been hit hard by injuries, losing four starters already. Those players might miss a week or so but should be good for down the stretch. Before playing Montoursville, Jersey Shore had shutout three straight opponents. Chris Glunk has not allowed a run in two starts and Dylan Hamm has been solid in relief. Catcher Christian Rishel has two multi-hit games and went 2-for-2 against Montoursville while reaching base all three times.
Player of the Week
Joey Gardner, Lewisburg
The senior is at the heart of Lewisburg's resurgence and was outstanding last week. Gardner went 7-for-9 with a home run and two doubles.
Game of the Week
Loyalsock at Hughesville
Wednesday's game is the renewal of what has become a terrific rivalry. Hughesville was the only HAC-II team to beat Loyalsock last year and has split three straight series with the Lancers. The Spartans have struggled some early, but have the talent and manpower to be a title contender and this should be a good one.
"It feels good. This is one of the best teams around so this helps a lot," Meyer said. "After this we should be flying high now."
Before last season, Sullivan had not reached the playoffs this century and had done so just three times in program history. The Griffins started 7-3 then lost five straight but peaked at the right time and won five of their next six games while avenging two previous losses against Muncy. That experience taught them that while they might lose some games, as long as they keep improving throughout the season good things can happen.
That was big entering Thursday's game. Tubach told players on the bus ride from Laporte to forget about that 0-3 start. The only focus was Muncy. Before last season there was not much of a past anyway so why focus on that? The future is what Sullivan is thinking about now.
The Griffins want to keep making history but they don't want to think about history. They were trail blazers last year and now they want to keep moving forward, they want to keep breaking new ground.
"I have a tremendously good group of boys here and they just need some more confidence because they can be really good," Tubach said. "Those (first three) games are in the past and we're looking ahead now."
Listen to a lot of stat nerds out there and they will tell you that a pitcher's win-loss record reveals little about him. They can use Muncy's Kenny Koch to back their claim. Koch is 0-2 but has thrown as well as any District 4 pitcher. In two games, Koch has allowed just five hits in 11 innings while striking out 25.
Both times, however, Muncy scored just one run and lost to Montgomery and Sullivan County. Koch was brilliant against Sullivan, striking out 15 and scattering three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He surrendered just one earned run but again took the hard-luck loss.
The sophomore right-hander has electric stuff when his curveball is moving like it was Thursday. He throws hard, spots his pitches well and appears to be settling into a comfort zone after last year's solid debut season. Oh yeah, Koch also is an excellent catcher with a big-time arm and is a dangerous hitter, too. He does not have the wins yet, but if Koch keeps playing like he has early, Muncy might get a lot by season's end.
"When he's throwing like that he's tough and when it warms up he will get better," Muncy coach Chris Persing said. "He's a phenomenal catcher. Dawson (Fox) (2-0) does a nice job too and we have to pick their spots and give them a break behind the dish with those guys pitching a lot."
NO FIELD, NO PROBLEM
Montoursville has been unable to play at Giles Field due to poor field conditions. The Warriors (3-1) can use the outfield so the outfielders receive a steady dose of flyballs. It has not even been able to practice infield there because things have been so bad. Basically, the only time infielders receive practice is during pregame warmups.
Despite all that, Montoursville has won three straight and thumped two-time defending District 4 Class AAA champion Jersey Shore, 12-1, Friday. The Warriors have won those three games by a 38-1 margin and scored 38 straight runs before Jersey Shore scored a fifth-inning run. The infield is still a work in progress due to lack of work but the offense has been on a rampage, and pitchers Pierce Ranck and Andrew Null have not allowed a run in three straight starts.
The bonus for Montoursville is that it will be playing a lot of home games down the stretch. It has the potential to compete for a HAC-I championship and a homefield advantage late in the season could be a nice boost.
"They've been taking good approaches and bringing a positive attitude even when we can't practice on our field because it's a mess. We can't practice on our field and they're still positive," Montoursville coach Travis Wurster said. "We're lucky enough that we can use some indoor facilities but we really just haven't been fielding the ball much. We'll get there with fielding and right now we haven't had to do a whole lot which is nice because we're haven't really been prepared for it."
St. John Neumann sophomore Ryan Reid is building well off a strong debut season. Reid is 9 for 12 in his last three games and he threw a complete game in Neumann's 6-5, 8-inning win over Sullivan County last Wednesday. He struck out 12 in that game and also went 3 for 5 with two RBIs ... The young Knights (2-2) are showing a lot of fight, winning or taking a lead after trailing 9-2 and 11-3 in two games ... Lewisburg (3-3) is off to its best start in years. The Green Dragons thumped Warrior Run, 15-4, Friday and delivered 15 hits. They have had at least seven hits in all six games and have nice wins over Central Mountain and Montgomery ... Wellsboro had its first outdoor practice Saturday. It also happened to be its first game. Despite no time outside, the Green Hornets excelled and blanked Coudersport, 10-0. Brandon Owlett was one of three pitchers who combined on a three-hitter and also tripled twice.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.