Injuries have been constant and a premier player left the team at midseason. Loyalsock can make excuses and talk about confronting adversity.
Instead, the Lancers have overcome it. They have rallied together and leaned on each other. And now they are once again champions.
Ethan Moore threw another complete-game gem and Jimmy Webb went 3 for 3 while Tommy Baggett and Rocco Lupo both drove in three runs Tuesday as Loyalsock routed visiting Hughesville, 11-1 in five innings while clinching at least a share of its fifth straight HAC-II championship. The Lancers (16-1, 13-1) are the only team that has ever won the HAC-II since it was formed in 2009, but will share the crown with South Williamsport if the Mounties beat Mount Carmel Friday.
Robbie Klein of Loyalsock is safe at home as Hughesville catcher Brett Reitz sweeps for the tag on a single by Rocco Lupo in the fourth inning Tuesday at Loyalsock. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
Co champions or outright champions, Loyalsock has completed its toughest and most impressive league championship journey.
"We've had ups and downs the whole season with injuries, key players getting off the team and stuff like that, but it brings us closer," said Moore, who improved to 4-0. "It's not always about who is the better team on paper, it's about who comes together and works as a team and guys have stepped up. It's a great feeling to know we're that close and we can do that stuff."
Loyalsock has won 13 straight since dropping its lone game to South last month. The Lancers avenged that defeat 12 days ago and snapped Hughesville's six-game winning streak Tuesday. They needed to win their last 10 league games to capture the title and did just that.
The names in the lineup have changed throughout the season, but the results have not. Loyalsock has repeatedly found a way to win and build on its stellar tradition.
"I think it shows we're a real team and we're close together and ready to go," Webb said. "We have bigger goals, but this was one of our goals at the start of the season."
"It's all these guys. That's what the team is all about. One guy goes down, you throw someone else in and find a way to get it done," Loyalsock coach Jeremy Eck said. "We're excited. We're happy for the guys and who knows what can happen but we're just going to keep plugging away."
Moore has been one of the team's most valuable players and has emerged as a standout pitcher after injuries threatened to decimate the pitching staff. He has allowed just one run in his last 29 innings and had a 26 2/3 inning scoreless streak going before Justin Lambert's third-inning sacrifice fly pulled Hughesville (11-7, 9-5) within 4-1.
Moore stranded two runners that inning and set the game's tone in the top of the first. The right-hander recorded a three-pitch strikeout with the bases loaded and Baggett's two-out RBI double in the bottom half put Loyalsock ahead to stay. Moore worked efficiently, struck out four and twice retired the side in order.
He was one of four seniors honored before the game and Moore made his final home performance a memorable one.
"It was emotional coming out here, but after that you have a game to play," Moore said. "We get focused up and get it going. It's just another game, we got the win and that's what really makes me happy."
Lambert (4-2) has been dominant and entered with a 19-inning scoreless streak. Loyalsock, though, had terrific at-bats against him, only swung at pitches in the zone and built a 4-0 second-inning lead when Webb slammed a two-run double into the left-center field gap. Reliever Tyler Mitcheltree cooled Loyalsock until the fourth, but three straight singles and Lupo's two-run single extended the lead to 7-1.
Seven Lancers delivered at least one hit and nine reached base, including Roger Wilson whose pinch-hit RBI single in the fifth ignited the game-winning four-run rally. The performance was a perfect microcosm of Loyalsock's entire season.
"If we get guys on base we seem to find a way to get the job done and manufacture runs whoever it is," Eck said. "We brought the L screen up nice and close (Monday) night and the coaches were just throwing bbs at them trying to speed their hands up. We talk all the time about just having a great approach at the plate and tonight we jumped on them early and put pressure on them."
Baggett (2 for 3, 3 RBIs) and Lupo were outstanding in the middle of the lineup. Baggett hit a two-out, two-run fifth-inning single that made it 10-1. Lupo put an exclamation point on his big day a batter later. The senior drove a walk-off single into right field in his final home at-bat, scoring Robbie Klein and clinching the championship.
"Our coaches have been saying all year it will be scary when we put it all together," Webb said. "And we feel like we're starting to put it all together."
Sadiq Burkholder played well for Hughesville, going 3 for 3 while making some nice plays in center field. Brady Kimble added two hits.
Hughesville001 00-1 5 0
Loyalsock130 33-11 11 0
Justin Lambert, Tyler Mitcheltree (2), Cody Stryker (5) and Brett Reitz. Ethan Moore and Bailey Young. W-Moore, (4-0). L-Lambert, (4-2).
Top Hughesville hitters: Sadiq Burkholder 3-3; Brady Kimble 2-3, R. Top Loyalsock hitters: Jimmy Webb 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Robbie Klein 1-2, 2 R, RBI; Tommy Baggett 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI; Rocco Lupo 2-3, 3 RBI.
Records: Loyalsock 16-1, 13-1 HAC-II. Hughesville 11-7, 9-5