7th-inning rally lifts Montour baseball to 1st state championship

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Thursday, June 16, 2022 | 5:27 PM


UNIVERSITY PARK — This was a scene Montour senior Ryan Gallagher and his teammates had thought about for years, one where they’re together at Penn State celebrating a state baseball championship on the infield grass.

But no one could’ve imagined how they got there.

With Gallagher on the mound, Montour gave up a crushing, go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning Thursday, dimming its state championship hopes. Yet, the Spartans rallied back with four runs in their last at-bat, and Gallagher finished strong on the mound to defeat Holy Ghost Prep, 10-9, in the PIAA Class 4A final at Medlar Field.

“I’m not going to lie. I had a roller coaster of emotions going after that,” Gallagher said. “My boys picked me up. We did it. It’s amazing.”

It was an emotional moment for everyone on Montour’s roster when Gallagher struck out the final Holy Ghost batter in the bottom of the seventh, stranding a runner and sparking a celebration on the infield.

This was Montour’s first appearance in the state finals. Before now, the team’s only baseball banner was a WPIAL title won in 1972.

“I’ve dreamt of this day since my freshman year,” said Gallagher, who successfully lobbied his coach to stay in the game and pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the win. “All I can say is, ‘We did it. We did it, man.’ It’s going to take a little bit to sink in, but we did it.”

Everyone was a little stunned. The Spartans had also erased deficits of 3-0 and 5-2 by scoring two runs in the third inning and four runs in the fourth, but scoring four times in the seventh was the most improbable.

“It’s crazy, surreal,” said senior Mason Sike, who had five RBIs, including two in the game-winning rally. “We could have never imagined doing this. But we wanted it and we took it. We never gave up. That’s what’s most important about these boys, no one gives up.”

Holy Ghost Prep (18-7) was the District 1 champion.

Montour (21-6) had experienced heartbreak twice in the past two seasons, losing this year and last in the WPIAL finals. But here on the state’s biggest stage, they finally celebrated as they’d always hoped.

“Words don’t explain it,” Montour coach Bob Janeda said. “This senior class deserved a medal — and I don’t mean a silver medal — I mean a gold medal. We have two silvers, and it was time to get the gold.”

This was the third time in four games that Montour scored 10 runs or more. The Spartans finished with eight hits, drew nine walks and had two batters hit by pitches.

Sike led the way with a 3-for-4 effort and keyed Montour’s winning rally with a two-run single in the seventh. His courtesy runner, Maddox Tarquinio, later scored the game-tying run.

In all, the Spartans combined one hit, two walks and three Holy Ghost errors to score four times in the seventh against reliever Matt Goldenbaum. Montour junior Cole Fleck scored the winning run on a two-out popup that dropped in the infield.

“We preached all year, ‘Put the baseball in play and good things will happen. Strike out and things won’t,’ ” Janeda said. “That’s what we did. We put the pressure on their defense.”

Still, Montour’s win was in doubt until the very end. Their most dire spot came when Holy Ghost’s Tyler McCord hit a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the sixth for a 9-6 lead.

Gallagher had just hit a batter and then walked the bases loaded before giving up the blast that hit the left-field foul pole. But the grand slam was the only hit Gallagher allowed in three innings of relief, so Janeda stuck with him, even after he walked the leadoff batter in the seventh.

He finished off the game with two groundouts and a strikeout.

“It wasn’t really polite what I said, and it wasn’t really polite what he said back to me,” Janeda said of his visit to the mound. “But he wanted to stay in that ballgame. He’s a senior. I had a junior warmed up. The dialogue him and I had was about four words each. In about a five-second dialogue, he convinced me to keep him in there.”

Sike pitched the first four innings and allowed five runs, three earned, on six hits and four walks. He struck out seven.

Holy Ghost used three pitchers, and Montour struggled with senior starter Nick Henn. The left-hander allowed two runs on three hits and two walks but left after just three innings with a 5-2 lead. He was relieved by sophomore Justin Lucas, who struggled quickly, pitched just one inning and allowed four runs, four hits and one walk.

“I thought it was early,” Janeda said of the switch from Henn to Lucas.

In the fifth, Holy Ghost turned to Goldenbaum, who allowed one hit and three walks in three innings but gave up the four runs in the seventh.

All nine of Holy Ghost’s runs were scored with two outs, but the District 1 champion wasn’t the only team with a knack for clutch hits. Seven of Montour’s 10 runs came with two outs.

Nick Walker scored three times, Fleck reached base five times and drove in two runs, and Brock Janeda reached base four times and scored twice.

The Spartans’ game-winning rally started with Janeda drawing a leadoff walk and Walker reaching base on a fielding error. They advanced to second and third on a sacrifice fly by Nick Luchovick. Sike then poked an outside pitch into right field, scoring both runners.

Montour scored its last two runs on errors by the Holy Ghost’s third baseman. In all, the team committed five errors.

Tarquinio, running for Sike, scored from first base on a throwing error by Jones. Fleck, who reached base on that error, scored the go-ahead run from third when Jones misplayed a two-out popup.

“We finished second in the WPIAL twice, so we were hungry,” Sike said. “We had nothing to lose. We came here and we feasted.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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