THORNDALE - The Mifflin County 9- and 10-year-old Little League Softball all stars made their way into the state tournament on the strength of their dominant pitching, tossing consecutive no-hitters in the Section 4 tournament to earn their place in the eight-team field.
However, the locals' pool play opener Wednesday afternoon against Section 3 champion Newberry was a different story.
Mifflin County got a taste of what it had been doing to opponents as Newberry starter Alexis Schuler threw a no-hitter while striking out a remarkable 16 batters in a 2-0 victory for the Section 3 squad.
The only hitters to put the ball in play against Schuler were Madison Ream, who grounded out to second base, and Taylor Ciccolini, who laid down a sacrifice bunt. The other 16 outs were all recorded via strikeout as Mifflin County couldn't catch up to Schuler's wicked fastball or time her off-speed pitches well enough to put the ball in play.
"We just couldn't seem to get the bat on the ball against her," Mifflin County manager Jason Treaster said of the Newberry starter. "There's not much you can do when you don't get base hits and have to try to manufacture runs."
The game was a stalemate for the first four innings. Schuler was racking up strikeouts, but Mifflin County starter Chloe Fitzgerald and reliever Ream were equally impressive through the first four frames, throwing two shutout innings apiece.
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County will face West Point at 4 p.m. today in Thorndale
Ream started the top half of the fifth by issuing a walk to Hailey Debrody, who quickly stole second. Olivia Fessler fanned, but Debrody moved up to third on a passed ball and Schuler walked to put runners on first and third with just one out. Kirsten Smith then hit a pop fly to shallow right field that wasn't fielded cleanly and became a fateful error for Mifflin County as it allowed the only two runs of the game to score.
Mifflin County had an opportunity to get back in the game in the bottom of the fifth when Kaitlyn Treaster drew a one-out walk and stole second and third, but she was stranded there when Schuler recorded consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.
Treaster acknowledged that his pitchers did all they could to keep Mifflin County in the game.
"You can't take anything away from our pitchers, they pitched excellent," he said. "I would say, 85-90 percent of games, if your pitching is going to give up two runs, you're probably going to win that ball game. It's just here, when you're facing the same type of pitching, it's different. I expect all the games down here to be like that."
Mifflin County still has a chance to bounce back with two pool play games remaining.
"We just have to play with our hearts like we have the whole way here, and we'll see what happens," Treaster said.
The locals are back in action at 4 p.m. today against West Point.