NEW BLOOMFIELD - In what coach Greg Pellman deemed "one of the best performances" in Mifflin County Christian Academy's brief baseball history, the Eagles batted around in two different innings en route to a 14-1 season-opening victory over Carson Long.
"We said that all we needed to do to get over the hump was to score some runs," Pellman explained. "We seemed to come together as a defensive team last year a little bit and they continue to improve with that. It was just that hitting - even against Carson Long earlier today, we loaded the bases and couldn't get over the hump and didn't score.
"But getting 14 runs tonight - it was great for the boys to come out of their shells."
Sentinel photos by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Despite being run into and rolling over the runner, Mifflin County Christian pitcher Chris Plank (58) successfully tagged Carson Long’s Tyler Pearce at the plate as Pearce was trying to score on a wild pitch in the second inning.
Leading 1-0 after Seth Pellman was plunked with the bases jammed in the second inning, the Eagles' offense finally broke out in the top half of the third. Chris Plank and Billy Solt led off the inning with back-to-back singles and Garrett Snyder drew a walk. That set the stage for Justin Gipe, who promptly followed with an RBI single to up the lead to two.
But the Eagles were just getting started - due in large part to a few untimely Carson Long errors. With the bases loaded again, Pellman hit a soft ground ball to short, but Warrior fielder Brian Sermans threw wide to first base that allowed two more runs to score. Aaron Harpster, the eighth batter of the frame, put the finishing touches on the wild inning with an RBI single to score Gipe from third base and Pellman from second to make it a 6-0 contest.
Bennett Scheff tried to do his part in the bottom of the inning to get his club back in the game with an RBI double, but Plank simply didn't give Carson Long many other opportunities.
Mifflin County Christian hosts Juniata Monday.
In the fifth, Jordan Breneman took a walk to lead of the inning and proceeded to steal second base on the next pitch. From there, he was singled in by Harpster, who picked up his second RBI of the day. But the inning wasn't over as John Campbell stepped to the plate and found the gap in deep left-center field for an RBI triple to extend the lead to 8-1.
But it was the sixth inning that would seal the deal as the Eagles sent 10 men to the plate for the second time.
Pinch hitter Jeff Haines reached on an infield single and advanced to second on an errant throw. Snyder followed with his fourth walk of the game and Gipe got aboard when the Warrior center fielder dropped a pop fly that allowed another run to score.
It was the beginning of the end for the Warriors, who proceeded to make two more errors in the inning that led to five more Eagle runners crossing the plate.
Plank, who pitched 4 1/3 innings of two-hit ball, was relieved by Bell, who quickly buzzed through the Warrior lineup with three consecutive strikeouts in the sixth inning to end the contest one inning shy of regulation.
"We hit at key times," Pellman said. "And that's huge for a coach that I can sit back and know that they have the ability to do it. Last year it was frustrating for kids because they knew that could do it and most of these kids are the same as the one's last year. So it's great to really see what they can do."
And not to be overshadowed was the shutdown performances of Plank and Bell on the mound.
"I'm thrilled," Pellman said. "The speed they throw and the ability to stay under control at that speed is good for a coach to have."
Make no mistake about it - this was the caliber of victory that Mifflin County Christian Academy needed after a winless 2008 season in order to gain some much needed confidence.
"We would have taken any type of win here tonight," Pellman explained. "But 14-1 - it's just icing on the cake. For the Mifflin County Christian Academy, it's been a long time coming and I'm just excited for the boys. They definitely know now that they can do it."