LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County played ball every day this week, and with a three-game skid in the middle to take the Huskies' record down to 8-8 prior to Friday's 7-0 win over State College, wins are becoming more and more important.
The Huskies have three games remaining in the regular season, and with their record now at 9-8, the magic number is one as they take the fight down to the line to make it into the District 6 Class AAAA tournament. But Friday, Mifflin County played like a team ready to take that last necessary win and more.
Propelled by a home run by power hitter John Michael Maclay and a complete-game shutout by pitcher Heath Hidlay, the Huskies played some stellar defense on the field and easily manufactured their runs for the win. And, after a 5-1 loss to the Little Lions at State College the day before, Friday's win was, as coach Travis Zook said, a great way to end the week.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Mifflin County’s Kyle Bodtorf slides safely back to first base as State College’s Ken Craig waits for the ball Friday.
"It's been a long week for us here playing since last Friday and all the way through this week, so it was a great pick me up here at the end of the week to take a big win over State College," the Mifflin County skipper said.
In the bottom of the first, three-straight singles from Maclay, Isaiah Kearns and Hidlay meant both Maclay and Kearns crossed for the 2-0 lead, but the real play to start the game was in the top half of the inning, when Max Remy, Isaac Strohecker and Drew Hannon completed a 6-4-3 double play to end the Little Lion's half of the inning with a runner stranded in scoring position.
From there, with the exception of one mishandled ball at shortstop by Remy, the Huskies were flawless in the field as they supported Hidlay to his win on two strikeouts, two walks and six hits.
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Mifflin County hosts Philipsburg-Osceola Monday
"It was great to see," Zook said of the team's defense. "We've struggled a little bit here and there with our defensive play, so to have that come up in this game against State College, which we had tough luck against yesterday - what a difference it makes."
The Huskies had some outstanding plays throughout the field on Friday, but some of the most notable ones again came from Remy and Strohecker, when in the top of the sixth Strohecker leapt to grab a line drive by Calvin Sichler that would have been a single to right-center field, and one play later Remy fielded a hard-hit grounder up the middle by Ken Craig for the 6-3 second out of the inning. One batter later, a Sam Plafcan single to right would have scored at least Sichler, but neither he nor Craig were on the base paths thanks to the Huskies' strong defensive play.
Other difficult plays by Mifflin County included a catch up against the third-base fence by Kearns in the top of the third, and a beautiful diving snag by center fielder Kyle Bodtorf to end the top of the fifth with one runner on. Yet, if Mifflin County was making the plays it needed to make, State College did the exact opposite, most notably in the third, when with the 2-0 lead Mifflin County tacked on four more runs before Maclay's solo homer in the fourth, and all but one of those four was the result of a State College miscue.
In the home half of the inning, State College starting pitcher Keith Labarron was in trouble with the bases loaded and one out. With Hayden Snook up to bat, the State College righty issued a run-scoring walk - it was his third walk of the inning, in addition to a hit batsman - to increase Mifflin County's lead to 3-0.
The situation got no better for State College when, with Remy at the plate, catcher Plafcan allowed a passed ball for the second run of the inning to score, then Labarron threw a wild pitch all the way to the backstop to give up the third run.
That final wild pitch ended Labarron's afternoon on the mound, but Mifflin County had one run left in the inning when Strohecker connected for an RBI single against replacement pitcher Alex Garban for the 6-0 lead.
Zooked summed up the game by complimenting Hidlay's shutout on just three days' rest, and also said the play the Huskies exibited Friday is exactly what he'd like to see every day.
"On short rest, (Hidlay's) working ahead of the count, he had good stuff working today," Zook said. "So defense, pitching, we got some runs in, and that's the way we should play baseball every day."
The Huskies (9-8, 9-6) will begin the first of their final three games Monday, when they play host to District 6 opponent Philipsburg-Osceola.