Yagodzinskie pitches Mount Carmel to first district title

May 25—WILLIAMSPORT — Drew Yagodzinskie pumped his fist and kicked his foot in the air as he walked off the mound after a game-opening strikeout Saturday.

The Mount Carmel junior right-hander's body language, while subtle, was deafening to the Red Tornadoes and their faithful.

I got this.

"You can't get any better with the first out, a strikeout. It gets everybody going in the crowd — it was loud here — and it gets the team all rowdied up," Yagodzinskie said. "I felt great. I feel like this was definitely one of the better games I threw.

"I was just right in a groove."

Yagodzinskie struck out nine in six innings of one-run ball, Clarke Cartwright made a momentous defensive play, and Mount Carmel won the first district championship in program history, beating Warrior Run 3-1 in the District 4 Class 3A final at Journey Bank Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field.

"We said at the beginning of the season that this is what we wanted to do, and we did it," said Cartwright.

The second-seeded Red Tornadoes, whose only other district final appearance was in 1983, erased a 1-0 deficit with two runs in the second inning and added another in the third. That was plenty for Yagodzinskie and reliever Noah Shimko, who pitched around a one-out single in the seventh for a title-game save.

"It's awesome for us all," Shimko said. "We've all been preaching it, and we knew this was our year."

Mount Carmel (14-5) advances to the state tournament with a first-round matchup against the District 2 champion, either Mountain View or Elk Lake, on June 3.

Warrior Run, which split a pair of Heartland Athletic Conference-Division III games with the Red Tornadoes, finished 14-9.

"We didn't make enough plays and get the crucial hits at the right time, but we were right in it until the last out," said Defenders coach Derrick Zechman. "(Yagodzinskie) was the best pitcher we've seen this year. When you're hitting 90, that's bringing it.

"You've got to tip your hat sometimes."

Yagodzinskie received the lion's share of hat tips, back slaps and handshakes after winning for the fourth time in five starts. He struck out the first two batters he faced, fanned two in three other innings, and retired seven consecutive batters in a dominant middle-inning stretch.

"To come out here and first pitch you paint 90 (mph)? That's a lot," said Mount Carmel coach Brenton Eades. "And I think pitch 50 through 93 he was more efficient than one through 50. It was almost like he was warming up and settling in to the atmosphere.

"When he's throwing strikes, efficient with his fastball and slider, he's tough to hit."

Yagodzinskie was aces with the exception of a four-batter span of the second inning. He hit Cohen Zechman and Landon Polcyn with consecutive wayward curveballs to open the frame. After a strikeout, Gabe Engel topped a ball toward first base that Yagodzinskie misjudged and ran past, filling the bases with one out. A wild pitch on a 1-2 curve to nine-hole hitter Aden Lewis allowed Cohen Zechman to score the game's first run before Yagodzinskie worked out of the jam.

Polcyn, a sophomore righty, ran into his own second-inning trouble after issuing a leadoff walk on four pitches. The Red Tornadoes loaded the bases with back-to-back one-out singles from Jonas Bettleyon and Brody Brinkash. Polcyn induced a comebacker for a force out at the plate, but he walked Brayden Brinkash and Gavin Lasko with up-and-away fastballs to put the Tornadoes in front 2-1.

"I'm very proud of (Polcyn). It was a gutty effort," said Derrick Zechman. "When he got hurt he started falling behind, and when you fall behind you play with fire. But he gave us an opportunity to stay in the game and compete. He threw well enough for us to win, definitely. Hat's off to him."

The Defenders' opportunity to tie or retake the lead died in Cartwright's glove in the third after James Keifer and Stone Allison (2-for-3) lined consecutive hits to open the inning. Yagodzinskie's fifth strikeout brought Cohen Zechman to the plate, and with an 0-1 count the Warrior Run sophomore rifled an opposite-field liner down the first-base line. Cartwright, playing in slightly to protect against a bunt, thrust his glove in the ball's path and stabbed it mere inches off the grass.

"It's weird. It's like slow-motion," Cartwright said. "When you're in the moment, it's like slow-motion and you don't hear anything. It's just you and the ball and the glove. There's not a thought in your head. It just happens — especially how hard that ball was hit."

Not only did Cartwright save one run, if not two, he scrambled to tag first base after the catch for an inning-ending double play.

"Honestly, if he's not as athletic as he is, I don't know if that play's made," said Eades. "They tie the game, their kid gets a double, and now we're in a different ballgame.

"(Cartwright) basically steals a run, and deflates them in an inning that could have been big."

"That's a game-changing play," Derrick Zechman agreed. "I think we're tied up because it was a laser — it would have been a triple — and he made a heck of a play. That's huge.

"We might still be playing here, who knows."

Cartwright added, "It kind of hit me when I got in the dugout. Everybody was like, 'That saved two runs.' That felt pretty good."

Cartwright then led off the home third with a hit. Following a fielder's choice, Bennett Williams and Bettleyon (2-for-3) lined singles to the outfield to make it 3-1.

Yagodzinskie had two strikeouts in a pair of 1-2-3 innings as he strung together four shutout frames before opting to hand the ball to Shimko at 93 pitches.

"It's a lot of maturity for him to give himself up and say, 'Hey, Coach, I'm gassed,'" said Eades. "He gives Shimko a fresh, clean inning with nobody on (like) 'Hey, man, it's up to you. Shut the door.' That's what he did."

Engel won a nine-pitch battle with Shimko, chopping a single over the 6-foot-5 junior with one out. That let the Defenders turn over the lineup to .418 hitter Griff Harrington, but Shimko coaxed a high fly to right to end the game.

"I'm like that known guy for our team that if we're in a sticky situation or if someone runs out of pitches late, I'm the guy to come in," Shimko said. "Coach Eades trusts me enough to do that, and I'm blessed that he believes in me that much."




At Journey Bank Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field



Warrior Run;010;000;0 — 1-4-0

Mount Carmel;021;000;x — 3-7-1

Landon Polcyn, Aden Lewis (6) and Lewis, Gabe Engel (6). Drew Yagodzinskie, Noah Shimko (7) and Gavin Lasko.

WP: Yagodzinskie. LP: Polcyn. S: Shimko.

Warrior Run: James Keifer 1-for-2; Stone Allison 2-for-3; Cohen Zechman run; Engel 1-for-3.

Mount Carmel: Brayden Brinkash RBI; Lasko 1-for-2, RBI; Yagodzinskie 1-for-3; Clarke Cartwright 1-for-3; Lukas Carpenter run; Bennett Williams 1-for-3; Jonas Bettleyon 2-for-3, run, RBI; Brody Brinkash 1-for-3, run.