Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Athletic eye is a huge asset to Muncie


Muncie’s Branson Ayer pitches against Montgomery on May 5, 2022 in Montgomery. Munsi won 5-2. Dave Kennedy/Sun-Gazette

Branson Ayer plays quarterback and defensive each fall and has helped Muncie capture two District 4 Class A championships.

He then plays both guard positions, defenders and guards and forwards and helps the basketball team make dramatic progress each season. So, it’s probably not surprising that Ayer trades in sneakers during the spring and plays the Swiss Army Knife all over again while helping the baseball team grow.

Ire may be labeled by the positions he plays, but the best way to describe him is as an athlete, period. He’s proving it again on the diamond, thriving on the mound, at shortstop and aggressively helping Muncie (13-2) to his first mid-pen championships since 2004. An outstanding player and leader, Ayer has both talent and pedigree and again providing considerable assets to his team as it puts together another strong season.

“His mindset is phenomenal,” Muncie coach Chris Pershing said after Ayer threw five innings of relief in Thursday’s 5-2 win at Montgomery. “He plays three games and he’s seen everything, so nothing really bothers him.”

Ayer debuted in football and basketball shortly after arriving in high school, but his academic baseball career was delayed by the 2020 season being wiped out by the pandemic. Ayer helped a young Muncie team reach the playoffs last year, but she was learning fast. Now he has improved in all areas and is doing everything possible to help Munsi win nine of his last 10 matches.

The team’s lead-off hitter compiled a .468 on-base percentage, while scoring two home runs, scoring 16 runs, scoring 26 times and scoring 14 for 14 on stolen base attempts. He anchors the infield at shortstop and is 5-0 on the mound, tying him for the field lead in the win. Whatever Munsi wants, Ier is eager to take up the role.

“It’s just fun being around Branson,” Pershing said. “He will do whatever you ask him to do.”

It involves filling a large pitching void. Muncie showed a strong pairing in Ross Ayer and Max Rimsza last season and came within a run of reaching the District 4 Class AA semifinals in a rugged tournament. With Rymsza graduating, Branson Ayer is one of several underclassmen who have grown up and helped Muncie remain undefeated in league play.

His cousin has been a staff ace the past two seasons, but now Branson has essentially become a co-ace. He was brilliant against a powerful Montgomery offense that was scoring runs in bunches, scattering three hits and just one runner to finish second. Ayer also threw a two-hitter against District 4 Class A-leading Benton and a career-high 11 dismissals against Millville.

“He has a lot of trust in Teal and a lot of maturity in him. He didn’t get a chance to play his freshman year and we didn’t have to throw him as much as last year because we had Max and Ross and we didn’t want to cut him short. Pershing said. “We knew he could pitch but we only threw him a few innings here and there. We didn’t get to use him that much, but apparently he’s a big part of what we’re doing on the mound this year. He’s pitching well.”

Ayer has good things to do, but what makes her really good is the intangibility. It is the same in football and basketball. He is the kind of player who embraces the big moments and welcomes the pressure.

And if something doesn’t go well, Eyeer can quickly flush it and move on to the next pitch. It’s important to have a short memory in games and Ir succeeds largely because the only game or pitch he cares about is the next.

“He’s just competitive enough that he wants the ball in that position. It may not always work in his favor, but he wants it because he has confidence in himself and must believe in himself.” Pershing said. “I’ve said it before… He just does so many things well.”

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And now it’s on to the next game.

Time of contention: Montoursville advanced to the playoffs for the 37th time in a row last Thursday and endured a never-ending losing season. South Williamsport sealed their 33rd straight berth on the same day. Lovesocks have taken two wins from making it in 20 straight playoff appearances and Williamsport are post-season-bound for a 16th consecutive season, having missed it only once in the program’s history.

The four are heading into the same field this weekend at Bowman Field for a backyard brawl. The fact that all four are rivals every year makes this tournament interesting, but the tradition of each event makes it downright terrifying. This year should be particularly fun, given that all four teams have had quality seasons and enter with a combined 35-14 record.

The action begins at 4 p.m. on Friday when defending champions South Williamsport play Montoursville in a rematch of last year’s final. Loylsock plays Williamsport about 30 minutes after the Lancers won last year’s third-place game. All four teams are evenly matched and predicting the champion is like flipping a coin. Attacking home at that point, there were four different champions in the previous four tournaments, with each team holding the crown.

All four teams have big goals this season and in the big picture post season matters the most. But you better believe they all want this championship even worse. Expect a playoff atmosphere, a lot of intensity and a lot of excitement this weekend.

Extra Base: Wellsborough has been a hitting machine over the past two weeks and sustained losses last week, scoring 28 runs and hitting outs in two wins, while securing a District 4 Class AAA playoff berth. The Green Hornets (10-4) have won five games in a row, producing a ridiculous 84 runs and 71 hits during that time. Wellsborough have scored at least 11 runs in every game and are hitting throughout the lineup, with No. 9 hitter Brody Moral scoring 7 for 8 in their last three games at home… Canton (9-8) Districts Went within a game of reaching the 4th Class AA playoffs, returning for the sixth late game this season, scoring three runs in the seventh inning to beat NorthEast Bradford 4–2. Cooper Kitchen won their fifth game and scored 2 for 3… Mike Sipps and Cade Sotolano of Couneasque Valley were the last All-Stars of football and are now showing their offensive firepower. Sips scored 4 for 4 with three doubles and three RBIs in the 10-3 win against Williamson. Sotolano beat a Grand Slam… Carter Peacock of Jersey Shore had a big day in a 5-3 win against Shamokin, scoring 4 for 4 with a triple, double and three runs… Ethan Nagy scored 6 for 8 last week and helped LoyalSock close it. 12-2 win against Warrior Run. Brendan Clarke scored 2 for 4 with four RBIs in that win… Montgomery catcher Thayden Miller is having a great season and scored 4 for 5 with two RBIs in a 14-7 win against Towanda Continued… Alex Davis has a big new year ahead for North Penn-Mansfield and hit two doubles in a 10-7 win against Troy. Two days later Cam Fabian scored 3 for 4 with two RBIs in a 7–1 win against Towanda.

Dr. Mass Top Five

1. Central Mountain (11-2): The Wildcats may not like to recapture this spot as it is one of three straight teams to have lost the top ranking shortly after achieving it. That trend continued last Monday when the Wildcats rallied two down and beat previous No. 1 Williamsport 5-2. The pitching staff is recuperating at the right time and Ashton Probst came back in a big way with a 6 1/3 strong knock to secure the win. Three days later, Levi Schlesinger was bad in relief, throwing 4 1/3 scoreless, one-hit innings with five strikeouts in a 14–6 win against Lewisburg. Senior has been excellent this year, going 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA, while allowing just seven hits in 17 2/3 innings. Central Mountain remains undefeated and finished first in the HAC-I with Selinsgrove starting a four-game week today against rival Jersey Shore.

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2. Montoursville (10-3): Not only did Montoursville win all three games last week, it knocked out every opponent and surrendered just four hits. It was an impressive display of not only Montoursville’s pitching prowess, but also its depth as AJ Llorente, Madix Delena and Grayson Rinker all threw the game. Llorente won his fourth straight decision, Delena hit a District 4-high 18 in a hitter against Jersey Shore, and Rinker threw a five-inning no-hitter against Shamokin, taking 43 of his 58 pitches to strike. Was placed. The offense has also heated up and Montoursville scored at least seven runs in each game. Seven different plays collected multi-hit performances in those games as the Warriors extended their winning streak to six games.

3. Williamsport (8-3): The Millionaires haven’t played since the Central Mountain game, but have home competitions against State College and Jersey Shore over the next two days. Williamsport is second in the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA standings, behind only Hazleton (12-1). Adam Aldendorfer and Owen Berry continued their hot hitting against Central Mountain, each producing two hits. Aldenderfer is hitting a team-best .469 and Berry is 7 for 10 in his last three matches with four RBIs. After not defeating the defending District 4 Class AAA champions since the 2016 Brawl Championships, the Millionaires will probably be out for revenge against Loyalsock.

4. South Williamsport (10-3): South went 3-1 last week and their only loss was against defending District 4 Class AAAA champion Mid-West. Mounties came back and scored 22 runs and took 19 hits in the next two matches. The South slowed Canton’s streaking, handing them their second defeat in 10 games with a 13–3 victory. Grant Bachchan is coming alive with the offensive and scored four runs in those games, while scoring nine runs in five innings against Canton. Aaron Akers had a stellar performance on his maiden start that day, scoring 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs. Landon Larsen moved to the leadoff spot and gave a spark to the offense, driving in seven RBIs in four games.

5. Hughesville (11-4): The Spartans fought a lot after losing 16-3, before making a quick comeback at the end of a suspended game against Lionsock and winning the regularly scheduled contest 8-2 appeared. This could have provided a turning point and Hughesville erased a two-run deficit three days later in a 12–6 win against Bloomsburg. Aiden Barlett has worked his way into the starting lineup and is making a huge impact. He set the tone with a three-run triple against Loyalsock and added four RBIs against Bloomsburg. Eli Olshefsky and Dylan Farnsworth are also swinging the hot bat and the offense has scored at least eight runs in each of their last three non-suspended games.

player of the week

AJ Llorente, Montoursville and Bradian Kamerer, Muncie: Llorente has shone as a starter and a relief this season, throwing six innings of three-hit baseball in a 7-0 win against Shikelami. The senior also delivered an aggressive blow and enjoyed a strong week, going 5 for 9 with a double and three RBIs. Kamerar has become a defensive weapon in the catcher and is solidifying Muncie’s lineup from the clean-up spot. Sophistication scored 6 for 8 with two RBIs in last week’s win, while also a runner-up in second to thwart a Montgomery rally. Kamerar has a team-high of four home runs and 18 RBIs.

game of the week

Muncie: The Brawl was already featured in South Williamsport, so this category is for other weekly games. Tuesday’s Showdown experiences the playoffs, featuring rivals who have produced excellent play in other games as well. Munsi is at 3rd and South 4th in District 4 class AA ranking. They are a joint 23-5 and have long winning traditions. It must be quite a fight.

-Masse can be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. @docmasse on Twitter. but follow him



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