STATE COLLEGE - Mifflin County certainly didn't have the best matchup to start the Pennsylvania Little League 11-12-year-old softball tournament this week in State College.
The locals were handed Minersville, the Section 3 champion and last year's state runner-up, in their first game of the tournament. Some jitters, according to Mifflin County coach Travis Eckley, may have been a factor in a 16-4, four-inning loss at the hands of the Schuylkill County team.
The tournament is pool play, so Mifflin County, the Section 4 champion, will still have a chance to make this year's final bracket. Mifflin County plays Punxsutawney tonight at 8 p.m. in its second game.
Sentinel photo by STEVE?MANUEL
Mifflin?County’s Hannah Fitzgerald, right, attempts to tag Minersville’s Rachel Hughes at third after Hughes rounded the base in the Pennsylvania Little League 11-12-year-old softball tournament in State College Tuesday. Hughes was safe on the play.
Mifflin County spotted Minersville seven runs in the first inning, and the Miners never looked back.
"We must of had some nerves," Eckley said. "The jump they got on us wasn't what we wanted. We definitely showed some nervousness."
Minersville jumped on starting pitcher Laiken Turner. Turner is just a few days removed from throwing a no-hitter in the Section 4 final against New Bethlehem. But Minersville didn't care.
The home team, Minersville, brought 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning. Four hits, two walks and a trio of Mifflin County errors were the culprits to dig Mifflin County's hole to start.
Mifflin County's offense, however, was dealt with a quartet of Minersville pitchers that didn't budge. Still, the locals were poised to get a few runners on base and threatened early.
In the top of the first, Eleana Eckley led off with a walk. Maddie Amspacker followed with a one-out base on balls. With the following batter up, Eckley and Amspacker swiped second and third to put two runners in scoring position with two outs.
But Mifflin County's early rally was halted when Hannah Fitzgerald's laser back to the pitcher was snagged and thrown to first.
From there, Minersville changed pitchers every inning, something that the Mifflin County coach said wasn't a big deal for his girls.
"It doesn't matter," Eckley said. "I don't care who they stand out there. None of them were going to shut us down."
Mifflin County got its first run across the plate in the second. After Hannah Kanagy singled, she was replaced by a special pinch runner, Logan Himes. Himes moved to second on a passed ball. Mifflin County's Ralie Goss then grounded out to first. But a throw from Minersville's first baseman to try and nab Himes sailed into foul territory and Himes trotted home.
Two more runs in the second inning for Minersville featured a few nice plays from Mifflin County. And thanks to those nice plays, Mifflin County got out of an inning that could have been much worse.
Back-to-back singles started the inning for Minersville. After one run had already crossed on Emily Mealey's base hit, Sarah Nawrocki walked. A bunt attempt from Rachel Hughes set the stage for for a Mifflin County double play.
Hughes got down the bunt and was thrown out by pitcher Kanagy. First baseman Turner then fired home to Goss to gun down Mealey at the plate to halt the rally.
"As the game went on, we showed how we are capable of playing," Eckley said. "The kids wouldn't quite. They aren't quitters. They know what it takes to win."
But another seven runs crossed the plate in the third inning that pretty much did the Mifflin County girls in. If it wasn't for that seven-run inning, Mifflin County's three-run sixth, highlighted by an Amspacker triple, would have meant a little more.
Kanagy started the inning off with a walk. She advanced to second on a passed ball. Goss then toed the plate and ripped a single down to right field. Kanagy was flying home and was caught in a rundown for the inning's first out.
Following a strikeout for the second out, Eleana Eckley walked and Himes belted a pitch to first that was misplayed. Eckley came around to score before Amspacker brought Himes in with her three-base hit.
"I saw jitters and some other things tonight," Travis Eckley said. "We'll correct it and come back out tomorrow night. We'll be OK."