Mifflin County's softball team has been, by all accounts, the most successful of the school's entries since the Huskies began play in the Mid-Penn Conference last fall.
But the Mifflin County nine has one more hill to climb - make that a mountain. The Huskies face Central Mountain today in the District 6 Class AAAA softball championship, a rematch of last year's final that went to the Wildcats by a 4-1 margin.
The game begins at noon at Penn State's Beard Field. It is one of four district finals featuring area teams on the slate today; two softball and two baseball.
A year ago, Mifflin County beat Central Mountain in the teams' regular-season meeting, but struggled to put the ball in play in the district game. The most memorable moment, though, was what appeared to be a great play by Brandi Sherwood for the Huskies, a scoop catch that would have retired the visitors' side in the sixth.
Out of habit, she threw the ball to first and missed the batter; that, Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy said, may have cost his team dearly. Central Mountain went on to score another run after that, and it deflated the local squad.
"She definitely made that play. I think when she made the throw to first they assumed that in her mind she didn't field it cleanly," he said. "I actually went through it in the book the other day. I think last year we didn't hit as well as we needed to. I think our pitching was OK, I don't think we had a whole lot of errors."
This year, there was no game in common - Mifflin County traveled to Central Mountain for the Wildcats' tournament, where both teams fell to DuBois. The Huskies won the opener.
"We won, they lost and we didn't get the matchup with them," McCurdy noted.
The only other common opponent was Philipsburg-Osceola, another tournament loss for the locals, who enter this game at 15-5. Central Mountain's toughest outing may have been against Williamsport.
No matter what, McCurdy said, the bat will decide who gets to play in the state tournament.
"They lost one kid last year, and they were a solid team. So they're returning a lot of players. These kids have played together for a while," he said. "We're going to have to play well, no doubt. I'm not worried about pitching, I'm not worried about our defense - that's been pretty solid all year. If we hit like we've been hitting thus far this season, I think that's going to be the key."
In other games today:
District 6 Class AA baseball: Mount Union is back to the finals, and will take on Blairsville. The Trojans are one of the most storied programs in the state, and are already guaranteed a state-tournament berth. That game begins at 7 p.m. at PNG Field in Altoona.
District 4 Class AAA baseball: After a three-year absence from the bracket, Midd-West is back in the fold as the No. 2 seed. The Mustangs face Heartland Conference foe Jersey Shore, the top seed, in a game that begins at 7 p.m. at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport. Only the winner advances.
District 3 Class A softball: Greenwood stunned top seed Upper Dauphin in the semifinals, earning a matchup with Millersburg in a tournament that featured four Tri-Valley League teams. These two met in the semis a year ago, with the Wildcats winning their fourth-straight district title in a season that took them deep into the state tournament. The game begins at 4:30 p.m. at Halifax. Only the winner advances.