Shedleski helps Dragons win.

By: Chris Masse | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | May 30, 2018


ALMEDIA — Aaron Hoover pumped his fist as Lewisburg players tossed their gloves high into the night sky.

The full moon rising above the trees next to Central Columbia’s Donā€ˆEngle Memorial field seemed fitting because the thought of Lewisburg winning a district championship a few years ago sure would have seemed strange. But this moment was all real. Lewisburg has climbed that summit that once seemed too high.

Nick Shedleski pitched a masterful 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, striking out 13, Hoover closed out the game and Lewisburg scored five two-out runs as it blanked Selinsgrove, 5-0, Tuesday and captured the District 4 Class AAAA championship. A program that went 16 seasons without a winning season or a playoff appearance before last year is a champion for the first time since 2000 when most of the current players were not yet born.

“We put in the work all season and it showed tonight,” Shedleski said. “We were hitting the ball and making plays in the field. We came together as a team and it was great. It’s wonderful.”

“Our vice principal Mr. (Ryan) Wetzel was on the last team to win it and he was so excited to see us win,” third baseman Peter Marrara said. “It’s a great feeling to bring joy back to the town when it comes to baseball.”

Coach Brian Zysset won two district championships and a state title at Loyalsock in 2008-09 before playing at Lock Haven. He became Lewisburg’s coach in 2016 and Lewisburg immediately made a three-win improvement. Last season, the Green Dragons (13-9), who play the District 2 runner-up Monday in states at a District 4 site, ended the playoff drought and reached the district semifinals.

Several starters graduated from that team and Lewisburg was 5-8 just a few weeks ago. The Dragons never stopped believing and now have won eight of nine games. They dominated districts, outscoring three teams, 25-0.

“As a player, it’s about your hard work in the offseason and just not knowing how you’re going to get rewarded during the season or at the end of the season,” Zysset said. “As a coach, it’s about the players and letting them play and letting them earn it. Our coaching staff has done a great job, but it’s on these kids believing in each other and having each other’s backs and competing.”

Shedleski had his team’s back last night and owned the championship stage. The sophomore produced a memorable performance, overpowering a strong offense, allowing only two hits and striking out 13 before reaching his pitch count-limit with two outs in the sixth inning.

Shedleski threw three perfect innings in the quarterfinals against CMVT. He might not have been perfect last night, but Shedleski also was never better. The tall right-hander struck out seven of the first 11 batters he faced, walked just one and never let a runner move past second base. He blew Selinsgrove hitters away with his hard fastball and kept them guessing with his effective off-speed pitches. Shedleski struck out at least one batter each inning, fanned the side in the fifth and recorded multiple strikeouts six times. Catcher Dakotah Snyder called nearly every pitch and nearly every one worked.

“As a pitcher these are the games you want to pitch in. That’s why you’re a pitcher, to pitch in these games and get the big wins and have your team’s back. It just feels great,” Shedleski said. “That’s all from preparation. It’s from the coaches having confidence, not only in myself but in everybody and everybody was making plays.”

Marrara and Snyder delivered the game’s biggest hits, doing so in consecutive innings and each doing so with two outs. Marrara (2 for 3) gave Lewisburg a 2-0, third-inning lead when he followed an error and Andrew Ramirez walk by drilling the first pitch the opposite way, into right field for a two-run single.

“I just saw ball, hit ball pretty much,” Marrara said. “I wanted to jump on the fastball because their pitchers were throwing good off-speed. I wanted to jump on the fastball and get some runs in.”

An inning later, Strosser sandwiched a single between walks to Colt Kline and Ramirez. Snyder was down to his last strike when he stayed with a pitch on the outside corner and drove it down the right-field line. Snyder cleared the bases with his three-run triple and Lewisburg led, 5-0.

Lewisburg hitters had good approaches and drove up starter Thomas Kerstetter’s pitch count while getting pitches they could drive. And the way Shedleski was throwing, the lead felt like it was 50-0.

“It’s good situational hitting,” Zysett said. “We told ourselves we weren’t going to chase first pitch. We were going to get deep in the count, let them work and do something with whatever they’re throwing at us and those two-out hits were big.”

Shedleski exited to a standing ovation from the green-clad fans who flooded the first-base line after recording his 13th strikeout. Hoover, the only senior starter, picked up where Shedleski left off and blew a fastball by Christian Kantz for the staff’s 14th strikeout and the championship.

And now Lewisburg takes its place as one of the best teams in program history.

“I’m proud of our hustle and our class,” Zysset said. “They’re going to remember this for a long time.”