Highlights during the past baseball season in Mifflin County included a player hitting a home run in a regional NCAA playoff game against the team that went on to win the national title, the two high school teams battling it out for top honors in District 6 and a winning streak in the Babe Ruth league that took on historic significance when it finally came to an end.
All those events and more happened during the 2010 season that started in February and ends in early September.
It would be tough to duplicate last summer, but it was still a productive season. Just to jog your memory how impressive 2009 was in Mifflin County youth baseball, a Little League team finished in the top eight in the state, the Babe Ruth league produced three teams in the final four - a state champion and a regional runner-up - and the American Legion team finished in the state's final four for the first time in its history.
Here's a look back at baseball from the youth leagues to the pros in the summer of 2010.
Mifflin County finished with a 19-12-1 record and was third in the Central Penn League tournament. For Larry Wolfe, the team's manager, it was another successful season, but compared to 2009 when Mifflin County finished in the final four in Pennsylvania, it just wasn't as enjoyable.
Baseball is a funny game, or so the saying goes. But it was no laughing matter for the Mifflin County Babe Ruth all-star teams this summer.
For the past decade, most of the bounces, give or take a few, have gone Mifflin County's way. Not in 2010.
The 13-year-olds just missed winning a state title as they lost twice to the eventual state champion, West End of Williamsport. A lot of things contribute to a loss - not getting the right hit at the right time, defense, a base on balls at the wrong moment and base running. In the games against West End, it was a combination of all those events that caused the disappointing losses.
At the 14-year-old level, West End not only won the state championship, but also won the Mid-Atlantic regional and advanced to the World Series. West End (16-4) finished in the final four in the country and its four losses came at the hands of California, the national champ; Florida (twice), the national runner-up; and Mifflin County.
Mifflin County failed to make the state's final four as it lost a tiebreaker despite having a 2-1 record.
The 15-year-olds had a 1-3 record in pool play in the state tournament and were eliminated. Two of those losses were by a total of three runs. Things just didn't happen for Mifflin County this summer. The sun, however, will come up next spring.
I don't know how many water coolers there are in Mifflin County, but I bet there was some talk about Lewistown West's 73-game winning streak during the last three years. While I was covering a game in Williamsport this summer, one of the West End officals said to me, "You know to win 73 games in a row, you have to have some talent. It wasn't just luck."
During that stretch, the West producded 39 Mifflin County all-stars.
Chad Curry, a former West player whose father coaches the team, once said, "Love'em or hate'em, everybody's talking about the West."
For Indian Valley's Travis Zook and Lewistown's Ray Hoppel, the two respective managers, it was quite a year. The Panthers, who had a very young team, were the top seed in District 6 Class AAA and then got knocked off by the Warriors in the semifinals.
Hoppel loses only one starter, Nick Pupo, but he was the Panthers' top pitcher and one of the team's top hitters.
Zook finally got his first District 6 Class AAA title and now joins Buck Riden and Matt Shoemaker as district-winning managers for the Warriors. Unlike Hoppel, Zook has his top pitcher, Cody Heane, returning along with two other starters and a junior varsity team that lost just two games.
As usual the Panthers and Warriors don't rebuild, they just restock. When these two teams meet in 2011, there is sure to be a lot on the line.
The three local seniors at Bucknell finished their careers in fine fashion as Ben Allen (Juniata), Andrew Knouse (Midd-West) and Ben Yoder (Indian Valley) played in the NCAA tournament. Bucknell won the Patriot League for the second time in three years and Knouse was named the league's top player. Against South Carolina, the team that went on to win the national title, Yoder hit a fourth inning solo home run in the first game of the regionals in 9-5 loss on June 4.
Elliot Searer (Lewistown) had a freshman year to remember at Penn State. Not only did he go on a 17-game hitting streak during the season, but the former Panther broke into the starting lineup early and stayed there the rest of the year. For his great year, he was named to the Big Ten's all-freshman team.
One thing Matt Wright (4-2) has been able to do since his days of pitching for Belltown in the Babe Ruth league is to have more strikeouts than innings pitched. This year for the Lansing Lugnuts, a Class A team for the Toronto Blue Jays, has been no different. Wright has worked 63.1 innings and has 79 strikeouts.
On a personal note, if you have been reading The Sentinel, you noticed that recently I traveled to Michigan to write about Wright. It marked the 11th state, outside of the Commonwealth, I have traveled to for a story about a local baseball player or team. The others are Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana, Washington and Mississippi.
All those miles traveled is a testimony to the players and teams in this area and how good baseball is in this small part of Pennsylvania.
I know it will be spring again when I arrive at a ballpark next year on a hot day - with my sweater on, of course - and smell hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and hear, "Hey, Ray, don't you think it's too warm for that sweater?"
Ray Wilde is a Sentinel correspondent.