MOUNT UNION - For a team accustomed to making deep runs in the postseason, Mount Union suffered a shock on Thursday when 13-seeded Tyrone knocked off the No. 4 Trojans in the first round of the District 6 Class AA baseball tournament, 11-3.
Mount Union went up against Tyrone ace Jordan Miller, who had shut out the Trojans earlier in the season, 1-0. Thursday, although both teams came away with 12 hits by the end of the contest, Miller again had the Trojans' number as he kept them off the scoreboard through five innings, which was more than enough time for the Golden Eagles to take an insurmountable lead over the home team.
Tyrone jumped on Mount Union starter Klayton Heffner early.
In the first inning the Golden Eagles got one run across on a bases-loaded error at shortstop, then extended the lead to 2-0 with a sacrifice fly to center field by Zach Soellner.
Heffner struggled early with his breaking pitches. Two of Tyrone's three first-inning hits were off a hanging curve, but by the second inning he caught two looking on that same curve, and held the Golden Eagles to one hit and no runs in the second. But as it turned out, the second inning was just the calm before the storm.
In the third, Mount Union was still scoreless, and Tyrone was ready to end Heffner's outing early with a five-run effort for the 7-0 lead.
Putting together five hits in the top of the third, Tyrone got its first runs of the inning across when Soellner drove one up the first-base line for two. Soellner then eventually crossed home himself when Matt Brenneman put one in play to Mount Union first baseman Hunter Atherton.
Rather than getting the force out at first, Atherton tried to gun down Soellner on his way home, but threw the ball skipping past catcher Brady Goodling, allowing Soellner to score and Brenneman to reach first. From there, RBIs from Tony Politza and Miller resulted in two more runs before Heffner was pulled for relief pitcher Trevon Walker, who got the last out of the inning on a 5-3 groundout.
"We're not a good offensive team, and when we dug ourselves a big hole like we did 7-0 early in the game, it was just way too much for us to come back," Mount Union coach Nick Imperioli said.
Mount Union didn't get its first run across until the bottom of the sixth, when Atherton and Drew Harshbarger led off with back-to-back singles to mount a threat. One out later, Dylan Sunderland hit a line drive past first base to bring home Atherton, but Harshbarger was left stranded when a fly to right field and a strikeout ended the Trojans' chances for more.
A large part of Mount Union's problem was the hard-throwing lefty Miller, who struck out six and issued no walks in his seven innings of work.
"When he pitches, he takes control of the game, and the defense plays well behind him," Tyrone coach Mark Savino said of his senior starter.
Tyrone put its eighth run across in the fifth by taking advantage of an error in the infield, and scored three in the top of the seventh when another error allowed the ninth run to cross, while the final two Tyrone runs were the result of RBI singles by Miller and Tristan Lingafelt.
Mount Union's final two runs were in the bottom of the seventh, when back-to-back drives to left field, including Harshbarger's RBI double, put the final score at 11-3.
Where Miller was mostly able to contain Mount Union despite the Trojans' 12 hits, both Heffner and Walker had trouble against Tyrone's offense. In 2 2/3 innings, Heffner gave up seven runs on nine hits. Walker gave up only three hits through 4 1/3 innings, but of the four runners who crossed home plate while he was on the mound, two originally got on by walks. Mount Union also had five errors.
"We didn't do much of anything well today. We didn't make good pitches, we didn't play good defense in the early part of the game when we would have had a chance," Imperioli said.
Thursday's game was completed minutes before the bad weather began, and it was also the only District 6 Class AA game that was not postponed. As a result, the Golden Eagles (9-10) will await the outcome of today's game between Penns Valley and Forest Hills to see who they play Monday, but for now they are just glad to have the win over Mount Union.
"We knew we could keep up with them... We knew we needed Jordan (Miller) and the rest of the guys to play their best game, because any time you play Mount Union you're going to have a game," Savino said.
The Trojans end the season at 14-4, and this with some disappointment after the early departure from the tournament.
"It's unfortunate," Imperioli said. "We don't lose too often here in the first round of the district, so it's very sad to end the season like this. Very sad."