LEWISTOWN - It was a longer endurance test than a traditional baseball game when the Mifflin County 10- and 11-year-olds picked up their District 5 Little League game with Marion Walker - a contest that was suspended in the eighth inning Wednesday due to rain - but the locals put it all on the line Thursday, winning the contest 9-8 in less than an inning of work.
"I'm proud of them. I told them, 'You know, it's a new ball game today,'" Mifflin County coach Josh Snook said - and the team must have listened, because the boys came out with enough intensity to put the game away in just four at-bats.
Hunter Wagner got to be the hero of the game, ripping an RBI single to right field to bring home the winning run, but it was a three-man effort working up to that point.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY?KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Hunter Wagner connects for the game-winning single against Marion Walker in the District 5 10-11 Little League tournament Thursday evening at Kish Park in Burnham.
Everything was started by Josh Snook Jr., who led off Thursday's portion of the game with a single to center field. Hudson First then came through with a double to put runners at second and third.
On the play, First took a 1-1 count from Marion Walker's Aaron Little before rocketing a shot to deep right-center field - a ball center fielder Rieli Redman was able to chase down and get leather on, but unable to snag. As the ball glanced off Redman's glove and rolled toward the fence, Snook and First hustled down the base paths, bringing Marion Walker's coach to the mound for a pitching change as the Mifflin County runners loomed in scoring position.
What happened next might have been cause for intimidation for Mifflin County, as tall southpaw Conner Bitner took the mound and scorched Jacob Krepps for a strikeout with his tough fastball to record the first out of the inning. However, Wagner came up to the plate and put all fears to rest.
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County travels to State College today at 6 p.m.
Working on an 0-1 count, Wagner lifted a shallow fly to right field, a shot Marion Walker's Andrew Summers charged in on, but his efforts fell short on the well placed hit.
Young Snook easily scored from third to put the game away.
"I think they were okay," coach Snook said of any of the nerves the boys might have felt when Bitner took the mound. "I think it was just the overall nerves of the game itself ... but I think they showed good composure, and they were ready to play good ball today."
Wednesday, it took plenty of heroics from the boys throughout the lineup to get in position to seal the win after trailing by four runs going into the bottom of the fifth and still down two before First and Krepps drove in the runs needed to tie the game in the sixth.
In the bottom of the fifth, both Krepps and Shane Dippery hit home runs to trail Marion Walker by just one run at 7-6. Then in the bottom of the sixth, Krepps came through with an RBI double to bring home First - who had already notched an RBI of his own earlier in the inning - tying the game at 8-8.
"(Krepps was) one of our key players from last night - we wouldn't even be here without him last night," Snook said.
Snook also gave a lot of credit to hit pitchers.
"Our pitching was great last night. Two of our pitchers - Blane Dickson and Hudson First - they threw great games. And overall the guys came out and hit the ball," he said.
Today, Mifflin County will face State College National, which won the first meeting between the two, in its quest for the district title. Since Mifflin County is coming out of the consolation bracket, it will need to beat State College twice to win the title. The championship game will be played at 6 p.m. today at State College's Montressor Field; if the locals win, they will host State College in the "if-necessary" game Saturday at 6.
"We've been wanting to get another shot at State College, and our kids believe we can beat them," Snook said.