STATE COLLEGE - Opportunity knocked. Mifflin County walked.
Two State College pitchers combined for six free passes in the third inning of the Little League District 5 9-10 softball tournament opener at API Field Wednesday. Add six base hits - including a double - a hit batsman and an error, and suddenly Mifflin County found itself in the driver's seat.
The locals won the opener, 13-0, with all of the runs coming in that frame.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Mifflin County’s Allysa Souders, right, and State College shortstop Olivia Herncane look to the field umpire for a ruling on a steal attempt by Souders in the second inning. Souders was out on the play.
After two, a nice little pitcher's duel seemed to be on the agenda for the evening. Both teams had base runners in the first two - each team even had a runner in scoring position before the third.
And it looked like State College - batting as the visitor - was going to take the upper hand after winning an argument with the umpire - one that Mifflin County manager Jason Treaster knew was going against him.
State's Megan Yerka led off the top of the third with a walk, one of only two passes Mifflin County's Chloe Fitzgerald dished out in the complete-game win. She stole second, then with one out, State's Mick Shannon came to the plate and attempted a sacrifice bunt. The question was whether she violated the base path rules on her way to first.
She didn't - and with a trot to second against an indifferent defense, the host club had two in scoring position with one out.
"(The home plate umpire) thought she stepped out of that (and) he called her out. The other umpire confirmed she didn't," Treaster explained. "I umpire myself, I knew what was going on."
Fitzgerald - who sat 10 batters in the game - put the next two away looking to end the threat.
But when Mifflin County came to bat the third time, Shannon - who had been throwing a solid game to that point - struggled. She walked two of the first three and hit the third as Mifflin County began substitutions.
With the bases loaded, her defense failed to provide support when Kaitlyn Treaster bobbled the ball into the infield; no one played it and the first run scored on the error.
"If they give you the opportunity to do it, you've got to go after it, take advantage - you've got to get the runs when you can get them," Treaster said.
She never recovered - Madison Ream and Fitzgerald each had RBI singles before a run walked in, Tori Nichols singled a run across and another walked before Olivia Herncane entered the circle for Shannon.
Not much changed - her first two were walks for runs, Ream singled in a pair and Fitzgerald hit a double to plate two more. Shannon stole a run with a stellar line drive catch for the second out, and Herncane fielded a grounder to end the inning.
"They had one and (were) weak after that," Treaster said of State College's pitching. "We had some good hits there, a couple solid hits to the outfield. Once the subs got in, they got on base. They did their job."
And it was too late - with State College subs coming to bat in the fourth and Fitzgerald lifted by the huge lead, there was nothing to stop Mifflin County from advancing in the bracket.
Mifflin County faces the winner of a game between Marion Walker and Bald Eagle Area Friday at a site to be determined.