LEWISTOWN - After two losses at the hands of Mifflin County during the regular season, State College was working against the odds Thursday when the No. 3 seed Little Lions faced off against the No. 2 seed Huskies for the District 6 Class AAAA semifinals at Highland Park Elementary School.
For two and a half innings, the Little Lions fought those odds as hard as they could with a scoreless tie, but in the bottom of the third Mifflin County broke the game open for a 4-0 lead. As it turned out, that was ultimately the end of the game, as the Huskies took the lead and cruised to the eventual 9-1 victory.
With the win, Mifflin County looks to defend its district title against No. 1 seed Central Mountain - an 8-1 winner over Altoona on Thursday - in a 2:30 p.m. game Wednesday at Penn State.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Kale Hunter makes contact on a pitch from State College pitcher Karli Nolen during the District 6 Class AAAA semifinals Thursday in Lewistown.
In Thursday's action, the Husky bats were ineffective with only one hit until the bottom of the third, when Mifflin County jumped on State College junior Karli Nolan for five-straight hits and four runs.
On two outs, Tara Kibe got the home half of the inning started with a single to right field. Kibe was promptly brought home when Mara Rhodes ripped an RBI-triple to center, then Rhodes made the short trip home herself when Kale Hunter collected one of her three singles with a line drive past the shortstop.
Up 2-0, the Huskies completed their scoring for the inning when Hunter's pinch-runner, Taylor Dietrich, came home on a single up the third-base line by Jordan Shirey, then winning pitcher Shelby Lyter helped her own cause with a seeing-eye single to shallow left to bring in Shirey.
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County faces Central Mountain Wednesday at Penn State
Overall, the Huskies collected 14 hits against Nolan, including a 3-for-4 day for Hunter, plus multiple-hit efforts and one double apiece to Alessa Morrison and Shirey.
"We struggle against Karli until we settle in and kind of get an idea of the speed that she's throwing and the pitches she's throwing," Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy said, explaining that after his girls stopped letting the good first pitch go by, the team's bats came alive.
"You're letting the best pitch that you're going to see all day go by, so we made the adjustments," he said.
Mifflin County got two more runs in the fourth, when Morrison brought Olivia Riden home from second with a double to left field, then took third on a passed ball and home on a wild pitch to increase the lead to 6-0.
In the fifth, the Huskies nearly ended the game early with the 10-run rule, but got only three across for the 9-0 lead. RBIs from Shirey, Maggie Wray and Morrison were responsible for the three runs, but before those runs could cross the Little Lions got a double play to reduce the Huskies' run total.
In the double play Shirey was waiting on third base, but Lyter put the ball in play to third baseman Andrea Kling, who made the throw across the diamond to first baseman Laura Harris for the first out, then Harris collected the second when she threw out Shirey on her way home.
With their season about to end, the Little Lions didn't go down without a fight.
In the top of the sixth they got their sole run across on an RBI-single from catcher Sharaya Simco. In the top of the seventh, State College got no runs across, but pinch hitters Michaela Rittenhouse and Andrea Myers collected hits from the No. 7 and 8 spots to get runners on before the game ended at 9-1.
Mifflin County's championship game against Central Mountain will not only be the Huskies' chance to defend their title, but also a chance to get revenge against the Wildcats, who defeated Mifflin County 10-1 at the Philipsburg-Osceola tournament.
"We committed some errors in that game and so fourth, and gave them some opportunities that if we make plays they're not going to get it," said McCurdy, explaining that in the loss his team had just come off a 10-inning game against Central Dauphin and also did not have Lyter in the circle.
"I know that we can play with them. These girls play their best game, (and) we're right there," he said.