Maurice Brown had teased him before so Chris Persing started thinking. This time, the long-time Muncy coach unveiled a contract.
A year ago Brown, a standout wide receiver the last two seasons, told Persing he was planning on playing baseball but changed his mind as the preseason approached. So last summer Persing, who doubles as the football team's offensive coordinator, handed Brown a contract when he told the coach he would play baseball in 2014. Brown signed on the dotted line.
Whatever Brown decided now, Persing had his man.
"During football season we were constantly begging him (Brown) to play. Coach P finally got him to sign a contract and he couldn't go back on it," Anthony Barberio said after striking out 10 in Thursday's 16-1 win over Sullivan County. "At lunch Mo was like, 'I'm not playing.' I told him Coach P will never let you live it down, plus you have a contract and that's a Coach P contract ... you don't break a Coach P contract."
Brown was true to his word and early on Muncy is reaping the benefits.
Despite having not played baseball in 2 1/2 years, Brown has made a seamless transition back to the game. The junior center fielder has given the offense a spark from the lead-off position and has wowed on the bases. Twice he scored three runs in wins last week as Muncy started 3-0 despite having few starters and little experience back from last year.
Dr. Masse's Top 5 rankings
1. Loyalsock (2-0)
The Lancers opened their state championship title defense in impressive fashion, blanking rival South Williamsport, 10-0 in five innings and dismantling Central Columbia, 19-1 in three. Duke-bound pitcher Luke Glavin picked up where he left off last year and struck out eight in four innings against South while Wake Forest-bound Jimmy Webb stole six bases and scored four runs. Webb went 3 for 3 against Central and also earned his first varsity pitching win. Phil Krizan went 3 for 4 with three RBIs in that game against a perennial district title contender. The Lancers have won 28 of their last 30 HAC-II games.
2. Jersey Shore (2-0)
Speaking of league dominance, the Bulldogs continue rolling in the HAC-I opening their season with 5-1 and 10-3 wins over 2013 playoff rivals Mifflinburg and Midd-West. Jersey Shore also has won 28 of its last 30 league games and excelled in all facets last week, delivering 18 hits and making only one error. Coach Matt O'Brien has led the Bulldogs to three straight District 4 Class AAA championships and his players seem determined to rally around him and his young son Declan who is battling a rare disease in their time of need.
3. Canton (3-0)
The Warriors returned their top three pitchers from last year's Class A state finalist and they already appear in midseason form. Chase Pepper, Garrett Wesneski and John Bowman have allowed just four runs and five hits in three games. Pepper is 3-0 and has struck out 14. He and John Bowman pitched six hitless and scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over District 4 Class AA title contender Towanda. Pepper also hit the game-winning home run in that win.
4. Williamsport (2-1)
The Millionaires were off last week after playing well at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Williamsport's offense is a work in progress but the pitching is strong and gives the Millionaires a chance to win any game. Four Williamsport pitchers surrendered just eight 13 hits in 21 innings down South. Kyle Hoover struck out 11 in five innings of a 2-1 win over University High, W.V., and Davey Ludwikowski, Noah Esposito and Gabe Rader all threw well against strong teams.
5. Hughesville (3-1)
A big question entering the season was how the defending District 4 Class AA champions would replace all-state pitcher Sadiq Burkholder. The early returns are impressive. Logan Reynolds threw five scoreless innings in his varsity debut against Central Columbia while Logan Bower and Christian Fish threw four more scoreless innings in Wednesday's 8-2 win over Shamokin. Those two combined for 10 strikeouts as Bower won his first varsity game. Catcher Brett Reitz handles the pitchers well and broke out offensively against Shamokin, going 3 for 3 with three RBIs.
Player of the week
Dalton Smith, Muncy
The senior second baseman started his season strong, delivering three straight multi-hit performances. Smith went 6 for 9 in three Muncy wins while scoring three times and driving in two first-inning runs against Sullivan.
Game of the week
Loyalsock at Hughesville
Today's game is a rematch of last year's thrilling district championship that Hughesville won, 7-5 in nine innings. The Spartans are the last team to beat Loyalsock and this has developed into one of the district's best rivalries the last few years. It is early, but this game always has a big-game, playoff-type atmosphere surrounding it.
If he is this good now, one can only imagine where Brown would be had he played as a freshman and sophomore. Not that Muncy is complaining.
"He has a lot of baseball sense and you wouldn't expect that with all the time off. He makes things go," Persing said. "He's a very good baseball player and the more he plays the more dangerous he will be. Just to pick it up and come out and play the way he has is impressive."
Brown looked like a natural against Sullivan, not someone playing just his third high school game. He took a first-inning pitch the opposite way for a single and then really dropped some jaws moments later. Dalton Smith followed with a single and when the ball was slightly bobbled in right field, Brown just kept going and scored all the way from first.
That sequence revealed what a weapon Brown can be. If he gets on base, Muncy has a great opportunity to score and pitchers have a lot to think about. He went 2 for 3 with a walk and three runs in that Sullivan win just two days after opening his scholastic career with a 1 for 2 performance which included three walks and three runs in an 11-1 victory over Benton. The next day he was in the middle of a game-winning rally against Millville as Muncy scored three times in the seventh inning and won 7-6.
"Mo provides a big boost as young as we are this year," Persing said. "We're still green and he's still green, but it's a nice green to have."
Brown provides a defensive spark as well. He covers a lot of ground in center field, has a solid arm to go along with the ability to turn would-be hits into potentially demoralizing outs.
While he did not play baseball the last two years, Brown already is developing into a leader. He is the kind of athlete teammates gravitate toward. He was an all-star receiver last fall and, against the odds, has all-star potential this spring. Even better for Muncy, he gives this team a valuable asset as it pursues its 16th consecutive playoff berth.
"In the outfield he gets great jumps and he does a lot of good things for not having played in a while," Persing said. "He has stepped right in. He has natural ability and kind of does things that make people tend to follow him. He's one of those types of kids that they embrace as far as being on team for first time."
Persing's quick thinking might have landed Muncy this season's most prized free agent. If things keep going well, he might want to frame that contract.
A day after South Williamsport coach Shawn Finn won his 200th game, Persing matched the achievement when Muncy beat Millville to deliver him win No. 200. The Sullivan win a day later makes Persing the active area wins leader entering this week. Like Finn, Persing has built his program into a perennial district title contender and has helped Muncy win four district championships in addition to leading it to the 2004 Class A state final and three Final 4s.
Persing has led Muncy to the playoffs in each of his first 14 seasons and has been one of the area's good guys. Talk to Persing after a game and one can hardly tell if Muncy won or lost.
"He's influenced this program so much," Barberio said. "We owe a lot to Coach P. I owe a lot to him and it's great to see what he's done for this program."
Persing has been backed by a strong staff that includes Mark Evans and Dale Michael who have been with him during his tenure and helped Muncy win more district titles than any other District 4 Class A team in the 21st century. Winning at a small school is not easy, but Persing has been able to coax the most out of his players year after year, combining knowledge of the game and discipline with a friendly approach.
"As soon as you walk in freshman year he tries to get to know you," Barberio said. "He's just a real personable guy."
And also a big winner.
St. John Neumann is 2-0 and looks like a potential sleeper in District 4 Class A. The Knights have deeper pitching than in years past and have outscored their first two opponents, 13-1. Pitcher/catcher Ryan Reid is 6 for 9 in two games ... Brady Andrews went 5 for 7 with six runs as Mansfield (2-1) won two consecutive games last week. Bryce Zaparzynski was 3 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs in a 13-6 win over Williamson ... Montgomery pitcher Dylan Gordon made quite a debut, throwing a three-hitter in a 5-4 win over Millville. Marcus Bartlett also threw well, allowing just six hits in a 2-1 loss to 2013 Class AA semifinalist Southern Columbia.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him for more high school baseball information on Twitter at @docmasse.