PIAA-A BASEBALL: Southern Fulton downs Millersburg behind Connor Litton's no-hitter
MCCONNELLSBURG >> Until Monday afternoon, Southern Fulton's baseball team had not won a state playoff game in more than 30 years.
But from the way the Indians played, you never would've guessed that.
The Indians produced hits all through the lineup, had a strong defensive game and got an absolute gem from Connor Litton on their way to a 10-0 victory over Millersburg in five innings in the first round of the PIAA Class A Tournament.
Litton threw a no-hitter and struck out nine to earn a shutout. It was the Indians' first state victory since 1982.
"He was tremendous," Millersburg coach Corey Keim said. "We weren't able to touch him. He moved the ball inside and out on us, and we weren't able to put the fastball in play. That's what it came down to."
With the victory, SF (23-2) will advance to face the winner of Christopher Dock vs. Tri-Valley, which was postponed until Tuesday. Millersburg finishes with a 17-7 record.
Although he is not Southern Fulton's No. 1 pitcher in the rotation, Litton asked for the start Monday, and he clearly had good reason.
"This is my senior year, and I wanted to be in control of this game," Litton said. "I knew the team had confidence in myself pitching on the mound, so I knew I could pitch and get us a win. We needed a win because we haven't won a state game in years."
Litton came in with a simple plan – throw fast and hard – and it worked.
"Before the game, he told me he was just going to try to use his fastball until they started to hit him," SF catcher Tanner Elbin said. "Nobody ever really started to hit him, so he mostly stuck with that and mixed in some offspeed only when he needed to."
Millersburg got only three runners on base all day, and just two in scoring position. The fourth inning was the best chance it had. Austin Lehman drew a walk to lead off, and with two outs, Litton hit a batter. But a strikeout quickly ended the threat.
"I let one pitch slip, and that curveball didn't break and hit that kid," Litton said. "I feel bad. I hate hitting kids because I know it hurts. But I also knew we had a good cushion, so I had to not worry about placing the ball but focus on getting strikeouts to get us out of that inning."
Litton was also just one of many heavy hitters for the Indians. He safely reached base all four times and went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBIs. He helped the Indians get off to an extremely quick start.
After Millersburg went down in order in the top of the first, Dylan Gordon turned his first pitch into a single straight up the middle. He was followed by a single from Tristan Douglas, and Litton smacked a double to plate them both. The Indians led 3-0 before the inning's end.
"That set the tone for everything," Keim said. "Those first three were big runs, and from that point, they were able to dictate the game to us, and that's not the position you want to be in."
Southern Fulton also ended well by starting to take advantage of some wild pitching. Holding onto a 6-0 lead heading into the fifth inning, Elbin and Cooper Grove drew walks to begin the frame. With one out, Zach Clark drew a full-count walk to load the bases, and Gordon followed with yet another walk.
"I told the kids to make them throw you strikes," SF coach Dustin Fischer said. "When he walked two in a row, I told the kids to take until they got a strike. He didn't get to throw much breaking stuff because we got ahead of him in the counts. We hit fastballs today and had really good approaches."
Litton then smacked a single to leftfield to drive in a pair of runs before Dillan Lashley hit a grounder that led to an error, which gave Gordon time to score the game-ending run.
"This feels really good," Elbin said. "It's a relief after last year. That was a tougher first-round game, but now we're just looking at going to get the next one."
Southern Fulton 10 Millersburg 0 (5 innings)
MillersburgSo. FultonabrhbabrhbLehman ss1000Gordon ss3322Burger 2b2000Dougls 2b3120Keim p2000Litton p4224Wingard cf1000Lashley cf3011Troutmn 3b2000Rider 1b3001Coleman lf2000Elbin c2100Shomper c2000Grove rf0100Keiter 1b1000Lynch dh2010Grexon rf2000McCskr 3b3000Latshaw p0000Clark lf1210Totals15000Totals241098
E: Mil 3, SF 2; DP: Mil 1; LOB: Mil 3, SF 5; 2B: Litton, Gordon; SB: Lehman, Litton, Lashley.
So. Fulton pitching
HBP: by Litton (Wingard); WP: Keim 2; Catcher's interference: SF 1.