STATE COLLEGE - A game of inches.
Many sports can be categorized with that frame of measurement. While Mifflin County's Pennsylvania Little League 11-12-year-old softball tournament opener against Minersville could have been measured in miles, it was a ruler, not an odometer, that was on the field for the locals against Punxsutawney Wednesday night at Montressor Field in State College.
Mifflin County just missed many times at the plate. That led to the locals being held hitless until the sixth inning. A total of three hits in a game that featured a total of five pitchers ended in a 2-0 loss for Mifflin County in its second pool play appearance.
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Mifflin County shortstop Maddie Amspacker, right, looks to the umpire as he calls Punxsutawney’s Tessa Winebark (39)?out at second base while second baseman Shelly Bohn covers the play in State College Wednesday.
"That's just the performance we are going to get out of them," Mifflin County coach Travis Eckley said of his trio of pitchers. "They know what it takes and it was a gutsy performance."
Hannah Kanagy started the game for Mifflin County and she eventually gave way to Maddie Amspacker and Eleana Eckley. Kanagy allowed two baserunners in her two innings of work and struck out two. Amspacker came on in the third; that's when Punxsutawney scored the early but deciding run.
Timely hitting and opportunistic baserunning for Punxsutawney produced the game's first run.
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* Mifflin County plays West Point tonight in State College
A misplayed ball up the middle allowed Lingenfelter to reach base. Following a ground out and a walk, Alli Lunger lifted a ball to shallow right field. Mifflin County second baseman Shelly Bohn made a great catch for the second out, but Lingenfelter tagged up from third and scored when Bohn's throw wasn't in time.
"They did what they needed to do and they had their hits when they needed them," Travis Eckley said. "We just come up short."
Punxsutawney starting pitcher Alli Ishman and Lingenfelter were the talk of the Western Pennsylvania pool after Wednesday's contest. Ishman pitched two innings and allowed no hits to Mifflin County.
But the locals' best chance of scoring was against the starter.
In the top of the second, after both teams went down in order in the first, Mifflin County staged a two-out rally without recording a base hit.
Kanagy started the rally with a sharply hit ball to third that was misplayed by the third baseman and Kanagy reached safely. Laiken Turner then dug in and drew a walk. On a 1-2 count to Ralie Goss, the Mifflin County catcher belted a pitch back to the pitcher that was fielded cleanly and thrown on to first to retire the side.
Punxsutawney scored a crucial run in the fifth inning that gave Lingenfelter a little breathing room. Another two-out rally culminated in an Ishman RBI single to make the game 2-0. Two of Punxsutawney's three hits were in the fifth.
Mifflin County's last chance to pull to 1-1 in the tournament came in the final frame. Once again, the locals were going to have to do it with two outs.
Amspacker hit a humpback liner up the middle and legged out a single for the locals first hit of the game. Then, Camryn Warnick walked, her second of the game, to put runners on first and second with two outs. So it all came down to the bat of Sabrina Stuck. Unfortunately for Mifflin County, Stuck hit a liner to second that was fielded cleanly and thrown on to first for the game's final out.
"We were literally inches from a couple of those balls getting through," Eckley said. "We hit the ball better tonight than we did in the last three or four games."
Mifflin County will return to Montressor Field at 8 p.m. for a matchup with West Point in its last pool play game in State College. Only two teams advance from the pool to the weekend championship bracket, and with a pair of losses, Mifflin County is out of contention with one game left to play.
"The girls are resilient and obviously the loss will bother them but they'll bounce back," Eckley said.