LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County has had many first in its inaugural baseball season under coach Travis Zook. Tuesday's game against Central Mountain added to the list.
The Huskies hosted the Wildcats in the school's first playoff game - a District 6 Class AAAA semifinal matchup with the right to play at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona against Altoona.
Unfortunately for the home team, many of those firsts were not in Mifflin County's favor. The Huskies picked up their first playoff loss at the claws of the Wildcats - an 8-3 comeback win for Central Mountain.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY?KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Ted Wilson, right, slides safely into home as Central Mountain’s Ryan Hill tries to apply the tag in the first inning of the District 6 Class AAAA semifinal game Tuesday in?Lewistown.
"All I said to them after the game was how great it was to be here," Zook said. "I couldn't have picked a better team. We have potential and it just didn't happen today."
Central Mountain's Von Walker, who has been the Wildcat go-to batter since his coming out party as a sophomore, blasted the deciding home run in the the top of the seventh. The Wildcats went on to score five runs in the inning, too much for the Huskies to come back from.
"Von was seeing the ball very well today," Central Mountain coach Mike Kramer said. "That definitely was a pendulum swing. When he gets pumped up our team gets pumped up."
Taking a look at the box score might indicate an easy win for the Wildcats. Not the case. Mifflin County started hot by putting up a trio of runs in the first inning to back starting pitcher Tanner Kibe.
The Huskies loaded the bases in the first only to have Kibe ground into a 1-2-3 double play, leaving runners on second and third with two outs. Ted Wilson then drove a double to right, scoring two. Evan Pupo followed with an opposite-field single to plate what would be Mifflin County's final tally.
"It's definitely tough to spot a team like Mifflin County three runs," Kramer said. "We had our back against the wall."
Central Mountain's Luke Wise got the win, tossing all seven innings. After giving up three runs in the first, he allowed only three hits the rest of the way.
"I have to credit Luke for the way he rebounded after the first inning," Kramer said. "He just needed to settle in to get all of his pitches working."
Kibe looked in command for most of the game. He worked around a leadoff double in the first inning and made it to the fifth having given up just two hits. But that's when the wheels started to fall off for the Huskies.
A walk, an error and a single loaded the bases with one out. Kibe got Cayden Stover to fly to center for the second out. Walker then drove a single to plate Brad Walker. Kibe gave way to Seth Wagner, who picked up a bases-loaded strikeout to end the Wildcat threat.
"Tanner did an excellent job. He got into a little bit of a pinch there," Zook said. "We made a few mistakes and we couldn't get out of the inning."
Two more runs came across for Central Mountain in the sixth with Wagner on the hill. A single from Alec Quiggle was followed by a walk from Brad Walker. Wagner then hit pinch-hitter Dylan Kerstetter to load the bases once more.
Central Mountain's Jonny Wise then grounded up the box and the Huskies had a chance for an inning-ending double play but the ball was mishandled and thrown wildly to first. Two runs came home on the error.
With the score knotted at 3, the Huskies were set down in order in the bottom of the sixth by Wise. The lefty seemed to be getting stronger as the game rolled along.
That set the stage for Von Walker's homer. He blasted a 2-2 breaking pitch over the left field fence. It proved to be the catalyst for Central Mountain as the Wildcats would get four more in the inning. Quiggle had an RBI double. Drew Nyman drove in a run with a single and Brad Walker also plated a run.
Central Mountain (14-5), who will be preparing in the district title game for the second straight year, now has one day to prepare for the Mountain Lions.
"They are a good ball team," Kramer said. "So we just have to stay after it like we have been. They have worked hard to get where they are and I'm excited about Thursday night."
Mifflin County finishes the season with a 16-2 mark in its first campaign. It's only losses came to Penns Valley and Williamsport.
"In baseball more than any other sport, things are more evenly matched on a day-to-day basis," Zook said. "I'm proud of the kids and we played a great season. I really enjoyed having them as a ball club."