LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County coach Barney Baker summed it up in one word: Hustle.
With runners on second and third in the bottom half of the second inning, Mifflin County's Nick Hostettler raced home on a passed ball. While Big Valley was retreating to the mound, Cole Baker surprised the visiting team and decided to break from third and score. That proved to be the difference as Mifflin County went on to win 8-6 over Big Valley in the District 5 11-12 Southern Tier tournament Wednesday in Lewistown.
"That was the difference in the ball game," Barney Baker said. "We stole a few runs."
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
Mifflin County’s Nick Hostettler, right, slides safely under the tag of Big Valley catcher Davis Wagner in the bottom of the second inning during the District 5 Southern Tier 11-12 tournament game held Wednesday at Rec Park in Lewistown.
Stole a few would be an understatement. Besides the two that crossed the plate in the second inning, Mifflin County scored another run on an error and a passed ball. The home team only had five hits, but it was enough.
"I told them to keep their heads up (following the game)," Big Valley coach Mike King said. "We made some errors and that didn't help our chances."
The two teams seemed to be feeling each other out over the first three or four innings before some solid pitching showed up at Rec Park. Cole Baker pitched the final three innings without a serious threat from the opposition.
"He's been my horse all year," Barney Baker said. "He's the ace. I didn't want to burn him tonight but I didn't want to burn us. I brought him in to shut them down and he did."
For Big Valley, Kyle Peachey came on in the second and was fairly consistent the rest of the way to keep Big Valley in the ball game.
Big Valley's Carson King got the visitors on the board first with a single that drove home leadoff hitter Joey Taptich.
But the offensive surge for Mifflin County early on would be enough to card the win.
Mifflin County scored six runs through the first two innings and it looked like the home team would be off and running to the next round without an fight.
A single from Cole Baker with one out started it off in the first. He would later score on the first passed ball. Jared Hannon then reached on an error to bring home Marcus Donahey.
In the second, Mifflin County poured in another four runs to take a 6-1 lead. Big Valley committed three errors in the inning and issued a pair of walks. Mifflin County had just one hit in the inning, but ended up with a big lead.
But the boys from Big Valley were thinking were thinking "Not so fast."
"It's a long game - six innings," Barney Baker said. "You have to play the whole game because they are a scrappy team."
The Big Valley half of the third started with a Drew Westover single. Taptich added a single and Ryan Walker walked before Westover was driven home by King's fielder's choice.
The final batter of the inning, Aaron Wagner, brought Big Valley within two runs with a two-run double to right field to make it 6-4.
"We were capable of winning the game," Mike King said. "We knew that going in. A couple things didn't bounce our way tonight and that's baseball."
The final runs Mifflin County would score came in the third inning. After batting around in the second, the home team started off with a pair of walks to Austin Herring and Hostettler. Cole Baker singled to drive home Herring.
Eric Schilling single to eventually bring home Hostettler after the ball was thrown around by Big Valley. The visitors got out of the inning with a double play that ended the threat in the third.
With the tally standing at 8-4, Big Valley had one big push left in them.
A leadoff double in the fourth from Brock Sinkus preceded an RBI single from Davis Wagner. He would later score on a Taptich sacrifice fly as Cole Baker's first batter. But then the Mifflin County hurler took over.
Mifflin County will go on to play Friday at State College American. The season came to a close for Big Valley Wednesday after its second loss in the double elimination tournament.