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Valley Sports Report
WILLIAMSPORT — Sayre took an early 1-0 lead, but never lit up the scoreboard again in a 7-1 loss to unbeaten District 2 champion Riverside here Monday afternoon in the opening round of the PIAA, Class AA baseball playoffs at historic Bowman Field.

“(R.J. Santaserio) kid pitched a great game,” said Sayre coach Jamie VanDuzer. “You’re not going to win any games with just four hits.”

“He was throwing hard and inside, hard and inside, then soft and away — that’s a good recipe to keep batters off-balance.

“When we did hit ball hard, they made some great plays,” added VanDuzer. “We could get anything going, we couldn’t string anything together.”

VanDuzer said the loss did nothing to take away from his team’s 21-2 season that included the program’s sixth District 4 title since 2008.

“I’m real proud of the kids. They had a great season,” he said. “It’s a little tough to swallow right now, but I’m hoping by the time we get back home, they will realize what they’ve accomplished.”

With ace Lucas Horton unavailable after throwing 105 pitches Friday in the District 4 championship game, junior left-hander David Northrup took the ball for the Redskins.

He struggled in the first inning, allowing a walk, hitting a batter, and giving up an infield single to load the bases with one out, but he struck out the next two batters to escape unscathed.

With one out in home half of the first, junior Brayden Horton ripped a double down the right-field line. With two outs, Northrup worked a walk, but Santaserio induced a fly ball to strand both Sayre runners.

After Northrup retired the Vikings, now 22-0, in order in the top of the second, sophomore Zach Garrity led of the bottom of the inning with a line-drive single to right field.

Walks to juniors Kannon VanDuzer and Mason Houseknecht loaded the bases, but Santaserio sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a sacrifice fly by senior Jake Burgess to escape the jam allowing just one run.

With one out in the top of the third, Santaserio smacked a double to deep left field, and scored moments later on an RBI single up the middle by Michael Rickert to tie the game at 1-1.

With two outs, Trevor Balcerzak laced an RBI single to center field to give Riverside the lead for good.

Northrup struck out Riverside’s lead-off hitter in the top of the fifth inning, but the next three batters reached to load the bases.

Coach VanDuzer handed the ball to Kannon VanDuzer, but Balcerzak greeted him with a hard-hit infield single that shortstop Zach Garrity gloved, but couldn’t get out of his glove to make a play.

A walk to Thomas Day forced home another run to make it 4-1, but VanDuzer avoided further damage with a 1-2-3 (VanDuzer to Brayden Horton to Lucas Horton) double play to end the inning.

“I thought the heat got to (David Northrup) a little bit in the fifth inning,” said Coach VanDuzer. “He hasn’t pitched much lately because Luke (Horton) has been on such a run … I think it definitely effected him.

“Early on, he had a tough time getting his breaking stuff over,” noted VanDuzer. “He was falling behind — he was 2-0 a lot, and you can’t do that … (Riverside) hit the ball hard because they knew fastballs were coming.

“Same with Kannon (VanDuzer), he fell behind in the count, and gave up some hits,” added VanDuzer.

With a little momentum on their side after the double play, the Redskins built a threat.

With one out, Brayden Horton worked a walk, and Lucas Horton belted a double into the right-center field gap.

Northrup followed with a shallow fly ball to right field, and Brayden Horton raced home. Riverside appealed that Horton left too early on his tag, and the umpire granted the appeal, calling Horton out to end the inning.

Riverside added three insurance runs in the top of the sixth to take a 7-1 lead.

Santaserio retired the Redskins in order in the bottom of the sixth, and reliever Zach Day, a hard-throwing freshman, did the same in the seventh to end the game.

Garrity singled, stole a base, and scored one run, while Brayden Horton and Lucas Horton each doubled, senior Zach Moore singled, and Burgess drove in one run to account for Sayre’s offense.

Northrup was tagged with the loss, allowing four runs — all earned — on five hits, while striking out six and walking two in 4 1/3 innings of work.

VanDuzer allowed three runs — one earned — on three hits, while striking out one and walking one in 1 2/3 innings of relief, and Moore pitched a perfect inning of relief in the seventh.

The Redskins graduate just three seniors — Burgess and Moore, both starters, and Jordan Goodrich.

“They are going to be very difficult to replace.

“Losing Jake (Burgess) up the middle … he makes a lot of plays up the middle for us,” said VanDuzer. “And, he’s always on base. He sets the table, and that’s going to be difficult to replace.

“Zach Moore ate up a ton of innings on the mound … he just comes in and throws strikes,” noted VanDuzer. “He can play anywhere on the field, and he hits the ball hard; that’s tough to replace, too.”

Sayre will return seven starters, including both Hortons and Northrup, and several reserves.

“We do have a lot back next year, and it’s fun to think about, but right now it’s tough to swallow this loss because I feel bad for those guys who have to jump on the bus that put so much into this program,” said VanDuzer.


IN PHOTO 1: Sayre’s Zach Garrity. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.

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