MILROY - It was a game of key moments Tuesday night as the Mifflin County Babe Ruth 14-year-olds took on Bensalem in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. But unfortunately for the boys at Mifflin County, those key moments did not turn out in their favor, and they dropped the game to Bensalem 5-4.
Mifflin County started out very strong, with starting pitcher Peyton Reesman throwing just nine pitches to strike out the side in the top of the first. In fact, Mifflin County was strong from the mound throughout the game. Reesman threw three and one-third innings with four total strikeouts. Isaiah Kearns, who finished the game after Reesman, contributed to Mifflin County's cause with two strikeouts of his own. However, despite a strong showing on the mound, Mifflin County would be haunted by two errors in the second and third, which would allow Bensalem to take a four-run lead Mifflin County could never top.
The first of Mifflin County's defensive woes occurred with one out in the top of the second. With runners on second and first, Bensalem's Matt Pagiegal hit a swift grounder to second, which had the ball been fielded, would have resulted in at least one out. However, the ball went right between the second baseman's legs, allowing both runners to score and Pagiegal to advance to second. Pagiegal then scored from second for a three-run lead before Mifflin County's defense could close out the top of the inning.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY?KREITZER
Mifflin County’s?Lucas Harshbarger, right, dives safely into second base as Bensalem’s Danny Hammer tries to apply the tag during Mifflin County’s 5-4 loss to Bensalem in the Babe Ruth 14-year-old state tournament Tuesday in Milroy.
In the top of the third with one out and Bensalem's Shawn Puskar on first, Mifflin County's second error occurred when Reesman attempted to pick off Puskar. Puskar, who had been carefully watching Reesman, took off for second as soon as Reesman made the pickoff attempt. Safe at second regardless, Puskar advanced all the way to third after first baseman Jarred Soles missed the throw from Reesman and the ball ended up against the first base fence. Puskar later scored on a line drive from Sean Hayes, causing Bensalem to take a 4-0 lead.
"They just got a timely hit here and a timely hit there, and we didn't make a play or two that we needed to make, but that's baseball," Mifflin County coach Scott Wright said.
Despite a few key miscues in the second and third, Mifflin County was hitting the ball and was in the game the whole time.
Mifflin County's first offensive strike occurred in the bottom of the third, when it scored three of its four runs. The inning started with a single from Kearns, who then advanced to second on a steal. The next batter, Lucas Harshbarger, hit a single to left and then stole second, putting runners at second and third. Reesman, the next batter up, then popped up between first and left field. Reesman was out on the shallow fly to first, but Kearns was quick on his feet and scored from third amidst confusion between the first baseman and left fielder.
The inning then progressed as Lucas Harshbarger and Drew Harshbarger, who had reached first on a walk, both scored on an RBI double from Graham Rhoades.
With the score at 5-3, Mifflin County had a few key moments where the outcome of the game could have changed, but the offense was never quite able to come through with the necessary runs.
One of these key moments occurred in the bottom of the sixth, when Mifflin County's Zach Hostettler was thrown out on a close play at home. After rounding third after Tyler Powell hit a line drive to left field, Hostettler was thrown out at home by a perfect strike from left fielder Shane McGrody. Had Powell's throw been off by an inch, Hostettler would have scored to bring the game within one run, but it was not to be for Mifflin County.
In the bottom of the seventh, Mifflin County again threatened to ruin Bensalem's lead. With runners on first and second and no outs, Kearns smashed a line drive by the pitcher and into center field to score one run and place runners on second and third. By this point, with no outs, Mifflin County's hopes were high to at least tie the game, if not win it. However, with two strikeouts and a fly to second base, Bensalem's closer, Danny Hammer, deflated Mifflin County's hopes.
"Here at the end the boys put it right out on the table," Wright said. "They wanted it; it just didn't happen."
With the loss, Mifflin County was eliminated from the state tournament. But despite disappointment that his team's season had come to an end, Wright was still proud of his players.
"They were a great group of young men," Wright said.