LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County got 13 strikeouts through five innings from Seth Wagner on senior day Tuesday but three hit batsmen and that, along with one walk, allowed Cedar Cliff to bounce the lefty from the game and go on to take the contest by a 9-3 margin.
Neither team had any success offensively in the early going but for spectators and teammates, it was obvious why Cedar Cliff looked clueless in the box. Wagner utilized three pitches to keep the Colts off balance and he did so effectively - striking out the side in each of the first four innings while facing just two more than the minimum.
With the game scoreless heading to the bottom half of the fourth and a storm on the horizon, shortstop Lucas McKay blasted a one-out double down the left field line to give the Huskies a spark and their fourth hit of the game. Hayden Snook stepped to the plate next and smacked a hard ground ball through the right side to plate McKay and the game's first run - and with Wagner in cruise control, it looked like one run could be the difference.
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
Mifflin County’s Lucas McKay, left, slides home, avoiding the tag of Cedar Cliff catcher Brandyn Smith, putting the Huskies up 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
Cedar Cliff demonstrated its patience and persistence in the top of the fifth, looking like a completely different squad.
The Colts had some help, though.
Wagner hit the first two batters in the top of the fifth frame and the next hitter blasted a liner off of McKay posted at shortstop to fill the bases. Mifflin County coach Travis Zook said he and his staff talked about making a move at that point, but they elected to let Wagner work through the inning.
IF YOU GO
* Mifflin County travels to State College Thursday
"We talked about making a change - and you ask in hindsight, did we let him in too long? Did we not?" Zook said. "He had some control issues earlier in the game but (Wagner) was able to battle back and he was able to throw strikes so we let him go."
The 6-foot 8-inch senior fought his way through the fifth, enduring an error and high-pressure situation to excape. The damage had been done though and the Huskies were looking up at 4-1 deficit heading to the dugout.
The Huskies were able to muster seven total hits and put the ball in play with force - but when it rains it pours - and for the Huskies, the four runs posted by the visitors in the fifth coincided with a steady, gloomy rain that seemingly dampened the home team's spirits and despite two six-inning runs, the game was over.
In the Mid-Penn and high school baseball in general, the game can change at any point. Cedar Cliff proved that as the team disrupted Wagner's groove in the fifth, so why couldn't Mifflin County?
Jackson Pettis would be the predominant reason, followed the a solid Colt defense.
Pettis was efficient in his effort against the hard-hitting Huskies, tossing all seven innings while striking out three and walking just two Mifflin County hitters. Pettis let his defense work, and Zook was not short on praise for the Colts' ability to pick it.
"They made a couple nice plays and their infield was pretty good," he said. "They made the plays tonight."
Down 6-1 heading to the sixth, the Huskies battled to get back into the game. Senior Aaron Michaels stroked a single to leadoff the inning and McKay followed that with his second double of the contest. Snook smacked a sacrifice fly to plate Michaels and McKay later scored on a linedrive single by Isaiah Kearns. One groundout later to Cedar Cliff's third baseman and the rally was squashed.
Kearns relieved Wagner on the bump following the fifth and worked through two innings. He allowed three earned runs and walked two. The freshman righty also went 1-for-1 at the plate.
"Offensively, we put the ball in play and we didn't have too many Ks," Zook said.
McKay finished the day with three hits and second baseman Heath Hidlay also chipped in a single.
Mifflin County moves to 8-8 overall and falls one game below .500 in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth to 7-8. The Huskies travel to State College Thursday.