Home / News / Sugar Valley baseball falls short to Sullivan County in comeback thriller

Sugar Valley baseball falls short to Sullivan County in comeback thriller

Sep 19, 2023Sep 19, 2023

Apr 11, 2023

TIM WEIGHT/For The Express. Sugar Valley pitcher and first basemen Lance Winchester swings at a pitch during Monday afternoon's game against Sullivan County.

LOCK HAVEN– What started out as a beautiful, bright and sunny afternoon at Taggart Park on Monday afternoon ended as a crisp temperature night. That's because when Sullivan County and Sugar Valley met for the first time this season and both were seeking its first win of the season. The two teams competed in one of the most back and forth games yet this season.

There aren't many games that teams play during its early part of the season where games last just over three hours and both teams combine for over 30 hits. While Sullivan County came away with a 17-14 conference win–including the first road win of the season for the Griffins–the game was no easy feat.

Sugar Valley may be a team that is yet to have a win in an early stretch of five games this season, but its a team with compassion and heart, a team that fights to the end. They’re still getting many of the nuances under its belt as the season completely settles in. The Phoenix proved they have potential to get back to .500 and make it a strong season if they play a full game together.

There were many moving pieces that led to Sugar Valley's comeback, but its outstanding hitting at the plate was phenomenal throughout the duration of the game–especially when they needed it most.

Cayden Weaver, Lance Winchester and Jordan Litz all went 3-5 at the plate on the afternoon. Gage Young went 2-4 and scored two runs while Jarren McCloskey went 2-5 and scored three runs and had three RBIs.

In a game that looked like it would be an easy victory for visiting Sullivan County–who went ahead 8-5 in the fifth inning–the game completely turned around in the sixth inning when Sugar Valley decided that they weren't going to give up.

The Phoenix totaled zero runs in the fifth inning, while the Griffins scored four runs on five hits. That's when Sugar Valley decided they would turn the game around. In the top of the sixth inning, Sullivan County came out and notched eight runs on six hits, including six walks. The Griffins’ hot fifth inning forced a couple Sugar Valley pitching changes.

But Sugar Valley didn't let that adversity scare them. Pitcher Jarren McCloskey came on the hill as the Phoenix’ third pitcher of the game and eventually got out of what looked like a scary jam. A jam that increased Sullivan's County's lead near double digits.

"Pitching got us in trouble early, we just don't have a lot of depth right now," coach Chuck Walizer said. "We had a lot of guys going. We made some short, quick errors early, but these guys didn't die."

As the Phoenix came up to bat, Gage Lucas hit a two-run double, Lance Winchester scored a run, McCloskey produced an RBI single and Jordan Litz also produced hits. Although it was Lucas's double that got Sugar Valley's action started, the energy and the feeding off each other was vital to Sugar Valley not getting down.

In the seventh inning, the Phoenix held Sullivan County to just a single run on one hit. Its opportunity to complete the comeback was there. But Tucker Blasi–who pitched 1.5 innings as the Griffins’ fifth pitcher–held the Phoenix to no runs and no hits to close the game for a save.

From the outside, it may look like the Phoenix are struggling. But the team from Loganton may say otherwise. The Phoenix produced one run in the first and third innings, but once it produced three in the fourth, its world started to light up a bit.

Sugar Valley had a big inning on Wednesday against Neumann when they produced five runs in one inning. It's clear that this team is getting more confident and they’re starting to figure some things out.

"In the start of the season the bats were cold," coach Walizer said. "In the past two games now, we’ve had some pretty big innings where we’ve put some good numbers on the board…guys put some runs up on the board, get comfortable, start swinging the bat and guys get more confident."

That confidence doesn't just come from anywhere, though. Sugar Valley's confidence rises when it sees teammates hitting the ball and bringing in runs, but that momentum starts way before each game. It starts in practices, like when this team started to bond, make leaders like Winchester and start playing for each other.

"Lance is a first-year player for us," coach Walizer noted. "The team named him captain earlier in the season and they couldn't have made a better choice. He's lifting these guys up and he's pushing them as hard as he can."

When a team trusts in a first-year player like it did in Winchester, it takes a lot. But those sacrifices can help build a team and bring out the best in others. That's what it's done to guys like Jordan Litz, Cayden Weaver and Jarren McCloskey.

The versatility at both the plate and the outfield has granted this team the potential to turn its season around. The versatility isn't a thing every team has, but it's something Sugar Valley can lean on for the rest of the season if need be.

"Timely hitting by Jordan (Litz)," coach Walizer mentioned. "And he played five positions in the field today. He started on first base, third base, pitcher, centerfield…he was doing it all."

Sugar Valley's loss makes it the team's fifth consecutive and third-straight in the Mid-Penn. This game served as a test for the Phoenix–a game where it needed to go deep into its bullpen to pull out various pitchers and score runs in a hurry to hop back in the game.

In its previous four losses, this team has lost by at least 10 runs. The Phoenix opened up a different can of worms on Monday, finding out it can go the distance. The key for the next few games will be using this loss as a starting point–fuel to fire up something special.

"As long as these guys stay in the game, as long as they keep their heads in it, we’re not out of it."

Sullivan County 17, Sugar Valley 14.

Sullivan County 300 1 4 8 1–17

Sugar Valley 1 01 3 0 9 0–14

Riley King (2), Kruz McCusker (2), Landon Baldwin, Blaze Fitzgerald. Lance Winchester, Cayden Weaver, Jarren McCloskey, Jordan Litz, Lincoln Breon. W: Baldwin L: Weaver.

Top Sullivan County hitters: Tucker Blasi 3-5 2R, 2RBI; Riley King 3-5 2R 2RBI; Landon Baldwin 2-5 3R; Keegan Bagley 3-4, RBI, R. Top Sugar Valley hitters: Cayden Weaver 3-5 3R; Jarren McCloskey 2-5 3R, 3RBIs; Jordan Litz 3-5, 2R, 2RBIs; Lincoln Breon 2-5 3RBIs, R; Gage Young 2-4, 2R.

Records: Sullivan County 1-4; Sugar Valley 0-5.

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