CANTON — Landon Lorson looked towards Casey Waller with a feeling of satisfaction with two outs in the seventh inning as Waller walked towards the mound to take the ball from him due to pitch-count restrictions. Lorson was right to be satisfied. On the last day he and fellow South Williamsport seniors attended high school, Lorson had a career-defining performance.
The Bloomsburg-bound pitcher played a near-flawless game of baseball, throwing a masterpiece of a baseball game and turning two leadoff singles into the tying and winning runs as South Williamsport beat Wyalusing and Wake Forest-bound pitcher Blake Morningstar, 3-1, in the District 4 Class AA baseball semifinals Tuesday at Canton High School.
South Williamsport will advance to play Muncy Saturday morning at 11AM at Bowman Field in Williamsport for the district title.
“That was awesome,” Lorson said. “I just feel blessed to be a part of this right now and be a part of such a great team,”
He was awesome. He scattered five hits across 6 2/3 innings and struck out 13 Rams on the afternoon. His velocity was up to a level it had never been for him, touching 92 miles per hour at times in the game, and for a pitcher prone to bouts of walks, he scattered two walks across his outing. He worked out of a two-on, one out jam in the second, and a two-on no out jam in the third, striking out the Wyalusing third, fifth and sixth batters to get out of that jam.
At the plate, he led off two innings with line-drive singles and helped turn those two hits into the tying and winning runs. It was everything Coach Casey Waller could want out of one of his aces and senior leaders.
“Landon Lorson pitched an outstanding game for us. He competed, then he came up with some big hits for us today too. And then he was aggressive on the boss. Landon was a dog today,” waller said.
After Lorson dropped a ball on a wild pitch at home plate with the Wyalusing runner dead to rights for the first run of the game in the bottom of the second, a switch of intensity seemed to flip for him. Wyalussing never scored again, and Lorson would help to make sure Southside would.
After Morningstar retired the first nine Mounties down in order, Lorson led off the fourth inning with a base-hit scorched back up the middle for South Williamsport’s first run. What happened next was the precise way Waller has coached in his illustrious career spanning three decades in Lycoming County.
Two-hitter Kaden Shay came to the plate, and it seemed like everyone in attendance knew a bunt would be coming from the diminutive Shay. Everyone except Wyalusing, that is. Wyalusing seemed surprised by the bunt, and when Shay laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third-base line, the Ram shortstop ran to cover second, leaving third base open. Wyalusing got the out at first, but Lorson never stopped running from first and made it into third safely as the tying run with just one out.
Shay has had some struggles in his sophomore season, according to Waller, but it was the perfect situation and exactly what Waller envisioned when he stuck with Shay in the two-hole all year.
“Coach Waller puts me in the two-hole because he knows I’m the best bunter and I’ll get it down,” Shay said. “During the week, he just had me practicing bunting down the line off like 92 mph, 93 mph-ish, so that really helped me be confident in the game.”
With three-hitter Makai Day up to bat, South Williamsport once again elected to bunt, this time towards the first baseman. The sacrifice was once again good enough to do the job, and Lorson scored to tie the game up at one.
The game stayed tied until the top of the 6th, when the visiting Mounties would do some damage again from the top of the order. Lorson took a 1-2 fastball from Morningstar and laced it between first and second for what looked to be a routine single. But, Lorson noticed the Ram defense treating it as a routine single, and hustled into 2nd for a eadoff double and the Mounties were in business.
This time, Kaden Shay wasn’t bunting. Shay took a 1-1 pitch and lined the ball into left field for a base hit, scoring Lorson and making it 2-1 through 5 1/2.
South would add another in the 7th. Senior DJ Gantz continued his hot hitting when he turned on a Morningstar fastball and hit a scorcher down the line for a leadoff double, before being lifted for pinch runner Remington Minier. Minier smartly advanced to third on a wild pitch, and another senior, Grant Bachman, drove him in with a sacrifice groundout to 2nd to make it 3-1, setting up the bottom of the 7th.
Lorson got a strikeout to start the inning, but CJ Carr singled out of the nine-spot for Wyalusing to give them some life and turn the lineup back over. Lorson wasn’t phased, though and for what could be his last act in a South Williamsport uniform got the dangerous Trehnon Hugo to pop out on his 106th offering of the afternoon, setting up Makai Day to come in for a one-out save.
It didn’t take Day very long. A called strike was followed by two swings and misses to clinch the ballgame, sending the Mountaineer faithful into a frenzy and punching their ticket to Bowman Field.
“I honestly wanted (Lorson) to be able to finish that game on his own because of how good he did, but I came in and got that final out and I was ready,” Day said.
South bought itself one more game, and this may be a team peaking at the right time.
“The last week we’ve been focused and the guys have been playing together as a team. They’re genuinely pulling for each other out there,” waller said.
South 000 101 1 – 3 5 1
Wyalusing 010 000 0 – 1 5 0
Landon Lorson, Makai Day (7) and Kayne Jones. Blake Morningstar and Nick Vanderpool Jr. W: Lorson. L: Morning star.
Top South Williamsport hitters: Lorson 2-3, 2B, 2 runs; Kaden Shay 1-3, sacrifice bunt, RBI. Top Wyalussing hitters: Jake Bruyn 2-3.