LEWISTOWN - Compared to a baseball diamond, the 60-foot base paths of fastpitch softball might appear to be short.
But anyone who has played or watched the fast-paced game in which very close plays are the norm knows that in those 60 feet are 720 inches, and the choices made within those inches can make all the difference.
Monday, the Mifflin County Huskies made all the right choices.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mifflin Countys Jordan Myers (16) slides into home plate for a run under Cedar Cliff catcher Emma Midgarden Monday evening in Lewistown.
Throughout the season the Huskies have demonstrated that they can strike with the long ball or come through with small ball, and although they employed both in Monday's Mid-Penn Conference game against Cedar Cliff, it was the small game that propelled Mifflin County to a 7-1 win.
Perhaps an omen of how the rest of the game would go for Mifflin County, the Huskies' first attack with the small ball came off the bat of Allessa Morrison in the bottom of the first. With teammate Mara Rhodes on first after a fielding error by the Colts, Morrison sent a perfectly executed push bunt past Cedar Cliff's third baseman to collect her first of four hits and advance Rhodes to second.
From there, clean up batter and starting pitcher Taylor Boyer dropped a Texas leaguer into shallow left field to score Rhodes from second, making it 1-0 in the Huskies' favor.
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County travels to State College Wednesday
It was then nothing doing until the top of the third, when Cedar Cliff pitcher Tiffany White aided her own effort with a two-out, RBI double to deep right center to bring home teammate Ruby Teffetellar from third.
With White at second, Cedar Cliff had the chance to take the lead but Boyer already had two outs in her favor from a strikeout and 4-3 ground out, and she finished the inning without any further damage when she forced Sam Lantz to ground out to first baseman Jordan Myers for an unassisted put out.
With the score at 1-1, Mifflin County took control of the game in the bottom of the third, starting with Morrison's second hit of the day, a single to right field. Morrison then stole second and advanced to third on an overthrow to set the plate for Mifflin County to take the lead.
From the three spot, Myers laid down a suicide bunt that not only scored Morrison for a 2-1 lead, but enabled her to reach first safely and advance to second on the attempt at home.
On the next pitch, a passed ball, Myers reached third, and Boyer completed the second successful suicide squeeze of the game, bringing Myers home and reaching second on a mirror image play of the first.
Boyer reached third on a single to second by Macie Lucas, but Cedar Cliff went into damage control and got a double play when a botched bunt attempt turned into a pop up that was gloved by Teffetellar, the third baseman, who then made a pickoff throw to short stop Anna Walker at third, catching Boyer off the bag for the double play. A 4-3 ground out from Mifflin County's Brooke Wilson ended the inning.
"You can live and die by that thing," Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy said of the suicide squeeze, but with the 3-1 lead at the end of the third, it was clear that Monday it was a play to live by.
In the following inning Mifflin County received the boost it needed to take the lead, and in the fourth it put the game away, combining small ball and a few long shots to put the score at 7-1.
Things got started with a Maggie Wray double to right field. Wray was then brought in by Morrison with a single to the same area, but in the interval Cedar Cliff had gotten two outs.
In the next at bat, Myers gave a clinic on why hustle is important, sprinting down the line to reach first on what would have been a 6-3 play to end the inning. With that play, Morrison scored from third, and in the following at bat a line drive to center field from Boyer brought Myers home before Macie Lucas ripped an RBI triple to right center for the final score of the inning.
It was a game of hits - 11 total for Mifflin County - aggression on the bases and an eight-strikeout performance from Boyer, and it all resulted in the Mifflin County win.
"They (Cedar Cliff) weren't aggressive at covering the bases either, so when you see opportunities like that you take advantage of them," McCurdy said, explaining that his girls' pressure on the base paths kept the Colts - who had two errors in the game - off kilter.
Mifflin County also had two errors on the field, but they were not detrimental to the overall outcome of the game.
"By and large I think our defense is playing pretty well. But I really would like to see us cut down on some of those errors. Those are the type of things that later in the season can really crop up to have things not really work out in your favor," McCurdy said.
In the meantime, Mifflin County (5-1, 5-1) can keep working on those areas of weakness Wednesday, when the Huskies travel to State College for more Commonwealth Division action.