MILROY - Last year, the Mifflin County Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-stars were just three runs away from making the state finals.
Mifflin County lost to Bensalem in the state semifinals, 4-2. It scored two runs in the first inning and then went quietly into the night losing late in the game, which was played in Altoona.
Now a year later, Mifflin County is hoping that a year's maturity will push it into the state finals and beyond.
One thing is for sure, the games won't be played in Altoona, but in the friendly confines of Armagh Memorial Field.
The state tournament opens Thursday with two games as Broomall-Newtown (District 1) takes on Perry County, the District 7 runner-up, at 5:30 p.m. Then at 8 p.m., the District 4 winner, Franklin Township (Lehighton), plays District 4 runner-up Blue Valley.
Mifflin County opens state play on Friday at 8 p.m. against Blue Valley. Last year, Blue Valley won the state 13-year-old title, but only seven of those players returned to Wind Gap-area team. In the District 4 final, Franklin Township won 16-11.
Also on Friday, at 2:30 p.m., ChiChester (District 6) will take on Bensalem (District 3), while Franklin Township plays Williamsport's West End (District 8) at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday will feature four more games as Perry County plays ChiChester at noon; Bensalem takes on Broomall-Newtown at 2:30 p.m.; West End plays Blue Valley at 5:30 p.m.; and at 8 p.m. Mifflin County takes on Franklin Township.
Pool play will conclude on Sunday with three games. Bensalem tangles with Perry County at 2:30 p.m.; ChiChester plays Bensalem at 5:30 p.m.; and Mifflin County takes on West End at 8 p.m.
Mifflin County is in the same pool with West End, Franklin Township and Blue Valley. In the other pool is Perry County, Bensalem, ChiChester and Broomall-Newtown.
One team will be eliminated from each pool and then on Monday, the third and second place teams play in the quarterfinals. The top two teams in each pool will play the winners of the quarterfinal games on Tuesday. The state final will be played on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Peyton Reesman and Alex Hackenberg are Mifflin County's top hitters with seven each in district play. Tyler Powell, Ty Hunter and Isaiah Kearns each have three.
Hunter has driven in the most runs with seven and he also has two triples. Kearns, Reesman and Hackenberg also have two extra-base hits. Kearns has a double and a triple, while Reesman has two doubles and Hackenberg has a triple and a double. Each of those players has four RBIs.
Powell, Jared Soles and Nate Earnest each have one double.
On the mound, Mifflin County used six different pitchers in its three games in the District 7 tournament.
Kearns had the only complete game as he went seven innings in a 9-1 win over Perry County. He struck out 11, walked one and gave up four hits.
Reesman got the win over Gettysburg as he went three innings, struck out three, walked no one and gave up one run and one hit. Drew Harshbarger and Andrew Bishop each threw a scoreless inning.
In the the third game, a 14-4 win over Perry County, Hackenberg had a no-hitter for four innings before he gave up a hit. He finished with one walk and was credited with one run. Graham Rhoades and Harshbarger finished the game for Mifflin County.
"We will go as far as our pitching will take us," said Scott Wright, the Mifflin County manager. "Our pitching will be the key. We have five or six pitchers that we feel can we can put out there that can do the job.
"It will come down to how bad our players want it." Wright said, "If we come out and play hard, I think we have a real chance to go places. It's also nice to be playing at home and in front of our fans."
Wright has a 104-63 overall record and as an all-star manager he is 8-2.