ALMEDIA — Nick Reeder owned the Central Columbia mound a year ago, tossing 5 2/3 innings to a hit and helping Montoursville defeat Athens in the AAAA District 4 semifinals. In Wednesday’s semifinals, back at Central, Reeder was further away and patrolling the center field.
But he was still dominant when throwing the ball home.
Reeder hit two perfect pitches at home plate against Lewisburg, cutting runners each time. In a game decided by a very slim margin, Reeder’s throws eventually sent Montoursville to the district final.
Reeder finished rounds twice with his lasers; Grayson Rinker pitched four brilliant relief innings and Cole Remsnyder drove in three runs as Montoursville beat Lewisburg, 5-4 in a hard-fought, well-played semifinal. The Warriors (15-5) erased a 3-2 second-inning deficit and reached their fourth straight district final, earning a berth against Danville on Saturday at Bowman Field.
“I was surprised both times. I was superficial both times and saw the coach waving him in and didn’t think it was a good move. said Reeder who was also 1 for 3 with two points. “It excites me, especially when they test me twice. I was surprised that they thought they could chase me after I threw them the first time.
Montoursville, who will be looking for his third championship in four years, was leading 4-3 in the fourth set when Reeder started to show his gut. Max Mitchell, who pitched a brave 5 2/3 innings, was third with one out when Michael Casale threw a ball into shallow center field.
Lewisburg played and dispatched Mitchell, but Reeder held all the cards. His perfect one-hop throw to receiver Matthias Albert was there so fast that Mitchell stopped ¾ from the line and tried to run back before Albert chased and tagged him.
Just a day earlier, Montoursville coach Jeremy Eck decided to shut down practice by putting the players on second base, bringing in the outfielders and having them try to catch them at home. Reeder continued to perfect the drive a set later, again denying Lewisburg the tying run.
This time, Montoursville was leading 5-3 when Shea Girton ripped a two-out RBI single with runners in second and third place. Mitchell tried to score from second, but Reeder owned the moment. His throw hopped off again and hit Albert at chest height. Albert then made a quick tag, putting Mitchell on his back as Montoursville held onto their one-point lead and moved within six outs of another District Final.
“If we don’t get those two games at the plate, it could be 6-5 and we go home,” said Reder. “So I feel like it was two big games.”
“He’s a senior who’s been in the lineup for two years and he certainly doesn’t want his season to end,” said Eck. “He hasn’t played his best baseball and he’s struggling offensively so that’s his contribution right now. Go get everything in the outfield right now and make some special plays and that’s what he did tonight and thank goodness he threw them on the money. They’re perfect pitches.
Third baseman Cameron Weihermuller-Francis snapped home earlier in the fifth inning to prevent Lewisburg from getting another run. Playing against a tenacious opponent, those throws were the uppercuts that ultimately helped ward off a worthy challenger. It certainly helped too that Remsnyder produced timely hits and Rinker pitched so well.
Remsnyder scored a two-run single in the first inning to put Montoursville up 2-0. Lewisburg answered an inning later and took a 3-2 lead as Forrest Zelechoski, Jack Blough and Kaiden Wagner all hit RBI singles. Montoursville, however, remained unfazed.
Ethan Stahl opened the bottom of the inning with a single; Reeder dropped a bunt single and Remsnyder tied the game with an RBI single. Weihermuller-Francis put Montoursville ahead to stay a hitter later with a sacrifice fly and AJ Llorente hit an RBI grounder in the fifth that made it, 5-3.
“You just have to stay up. You cannot go down. You have to keep everyone in the dugout and try to keep rallying,” Rinker said. “We know what we can do, and we showed it tonight.”
Rinker also showed what he could on the mound. Llorente are tied for the top zone but didn’t have their best on Wednesday. Still, the senior fought for three innings, left two runners on base in the second, and retired for. Rinker came in fourth and Zelechoski (2 for 3) greeted him with a single.
Once Rinker settled in, however, he began to take over. He induced a double play three pitches later, then dominated the final two innings after Reeder’s timely pitch to finish the fifth. He struck out four and blocked an attack that had started strong.
The junior right-hander had great movement on his fastball and hasn’t allowed a hit the past two innings. Rinker worked a perfect seventh inning, closing the game with consecutive strikeouts.
“I was really pumped up and ready to go. AJ dumped three innings for us, and I was able to do the rest,” Rinker said. “It was very exciting. I’m glad I had the chance to do it. I know these guys support me. I can throw any pitch I want, and they’ll go make the plays.
Dalena proved it in the sixth when he landed an incredible catch late in the frame. A runner was first when Aiden Howerter sent a flyball into no man’s land along the left field line. Dalena sprinted from shortstop and kind of did a fully extended dive and caught the ball inches before it hit the ground.
A few inches there, a few inches back and forth on Reeder’s throws and the outcome could be different. Lewisburg almost reached their first district final since 2018 and played a strong game overall. Wagner and Zelechoski each had two hits, and Mitchell did not allow a hit after the second inning, getting stronger as the game progressed.
Lewisburg and Montoursville shared two regular season games and each was tight. This one was the best yet and Montoursville found a way to earn the opportunity he had been coveting since losing the District Championship last year.
The Warriors certainly did it the hard way.
“This year has been tough. People don’t understand it’s a battle. said Eck. “We didn’t play good baseball. Fighting, fighting and fighting through everything you earn…it’s rewarding but it’s also exhausting.
Lewisburg 030 010 0–4 6 1
Montoursville 220 100 x–5 6 1
Max Mitchell, Forrest Zelechoski (6) and Shea Girton. AJ Llorente, Grayson Rinker (5) and Matthias Albert. W–. L-.
Lewisburg’s top hitters: Zelechoski 2-3; Kaiden Wagner 2-4, RBI, R; Girton 1-2, RBI; Jack Brough 1-3, RBI. Top Montoursville hitters: Cole Remsnyder 2-3, 3 RBIs; Maddix Dalena 1-2, 2R; AJ Llorente 1-3, RBI; Nick Reeder 1-3, 2R; Ethan Stahl 1-3, R.
Records: Montoursville 15-5. Lewisburg 10-9.