By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
EDWARDSVILLE – Maddix Dalena came out on top in a starting pitching matchup of future University of Connecticut teammates with some help from his teammates in the field Monday.
Dalena recorded eight of his nine strikeouts while holding Wyoming Area hitless over the final 3 2/3 innings Monday afternoon as Montoursville prevented the Warriors from putting together another deep Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoff run with a 5-2 victory in a Class 4A state first-round game at Wilkes University’s Ralston Field.
Wyoming Area, in its first state tournament appearance, went all the way to the state championship game last season. The Warriors won their second straight District 2 title this season after never having reached a championship game in the more than half-century history of the school prior to that.
“The outcome today wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but these guys are champions,” Wyoming Area coach Rob Lemoncelli said. “They took a program that had never even been to the district championship and let’s look what they’ve done.
“Two district championships back-to-back. State runner-up. First 20-win season in school history. Guys going to college. We’re playing legit baseball here. These guys did that because they work, they listen and they believe in us.
“When you do that, possibilities are endless. They set our program up in really good shape for the future.”
Dalena and Wyoming Area’s J.J. Hood, the future teammates, each worked six innings on the mound. Dalena gave up one earned run on four hits while Hood gave up two on five hits, but Montoursville also scored three unearned runs on three Wyoming Area errors in the first 2 1/3 innings.
Hood also singled in a run to put Wyoming Area on the board first, but the unearned runs gave Montoursville a 3-2 lead after 2½ innings and Dalena ran with it from there. He overcame five walks with nine strikeouts, fanning consecutive batters four times.
“They’re a really good team,” Dalena said. “My stuff was just on today. I felt really good.”
Cameron Francis from Montoursville had the game’s only extra-base hit with an RBI double in the second to erase the early 1-0 deficit.
A walk, a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice in which Wyoming Area went after the lead runner, but didn’t record an out all contributed to Montoursville adding two runs in the sixth for a 5-2 lead.
After leaving two runners stranded in the third and fifth, Wyoming Area lost a baserunner in the seventh.
Casey Noone singled on the first pitch from reliever Grayson Rinker.
Jack Mathis hit a liner to third base that appeared to be dropped by Francis.
The third base umpire, positioned behind Francis, never saw the ball on the ground and none of the others in the four-man umpiring crew overruled him when he signaled the ball had been caught. That left Noone hung up between first and second base and he was doubled up when he could not retreat in time.
“This guy over here at third base drops a ball on a line drive and they call (Noone) out on a double play,” Lemoncelli said. “Things like that are going to happen in baseball.”
One batter later, the game and Wyoming Area’s playoff run were over.
Hood struck out five and walked two. The only player in the game with more than one hit, run or RBI, Hood went 2-for-2 and also reached on a walk.
Hunter Lawall pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning in relief.
Wyoming Area finished 20-5.
District 4 champion Montoursville (17-5) travels to Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg Thursday at 4 p.m. to take on District 12 champion Monsignor Bonner in a state quarterfinal.