UNIVERSITY PARK - Central Mountain bled Mifflin County ace Shelby Lyter for four first-inning runs and that's all the Wildcats needed to take the District 6 Class AAAA softball championship, 4-1, over the Huskies Wedneday at Penn State's Beard Field.
Lyter surrendered just four harmless singles and no runs over the game's final six innings, but the aggressive Mifflin County hitters couldn't strike against Wildcats' starting pitcher Rachael Shady until it was too late.
Mifflin County's best opportunity may have come in the top of the first. Jordan Shirey launched a one-out double to right field and Mara Rhodes followed with a single to shallow left.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Mifflin County catcher Allessa Morrison, right, tags out Central Mountain’s Avery Pringle at home Wednesday at Penn State’s Beard Field in the District 6 Class AAAA softball championship game.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Mifflin County’s Jordan Shirey, left, slides safely into second under the tag of Central Mountain’s Jessica Strouse Wednesday.
But Shady got the following two Huskies, Kale Hunter and Olivia Riden, with groundouts to escape the inning.
Central Mountain seized its chance in the bottom half of the inning.
Jessica Strouse started it off with a one-out walk and quickly stole second base. Lyter struck out Lauren Russell for the second out before Mariah Major's RBI-single brought home the first run of the day.
Bree Hilty was hit by a pitch and Jordan Kaler's two-run single made it 3-0 Central Mountain.
"I'm not sure (what happened)," Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy said. "We certainly misplayed some balls and weren't making very good decision in trying to get the runner at home and missing the cutoff to kept advancing runners to second base."
Shady singled to center and Kaler scored to make it 4-0 before Lyter could get Avery Shaffer swinging to end the inning.
"I had a lot of trouble at first (gripping the ball in the first inning)," Lyter said. "As the game progressed, I started to do better."
Mifflin County went down in order in both the second and third innings.
Central Mountain had a chance to add another run in its half of the third, but Mifflin County didn't let that happen.
Major singled and her pinch-runner stole second. Hilty lined out to Lyter and bring Kaler up with two outs again.
Kaler lined her second single of the day to left and the Huskies' left fielder, Tara Kibe, gunned down Wildcat pinch-runner Avery Pringle trying to score to end the inning.
In the fourth, Mifflin County got a one-out single from Hunter to set up the biggest scare of the game to that point for Shady.
Riden popped up in front of the plate and the Central Mountain pitcher collided with catcher Lauren Russell, but Russell came up with the ball and the two laughed it off.
Shady returned to the circle after being checked and induced a grounder to short by Hannah Ruby to end the inning.
"Not that aggressive," McCurdy said of his team's approach at the plate. "Aggressive and smart. We were definitely a little lax in swinging at some bad pitches at different times. You have to be aggressive somewhat because the kid is pretty quick. You also have to be able to pick the ball up and swing at good pitches."
Lyter got the Wildcats in order to finish the bottom half of the fourth.
Maggie Wray served a two-out bloop single into center field, but got no further as Shady got Huskies' catcher, Allessa Morrison, on a first-pitch groundout to shortstop.
The Huskies had more than one runner on base in the sixth for the first time since the first inning, but couldn't cash in.
Shady issued a lead-off walk to Shirey and started Rhodes off 2-0 before a mound visit. Rhodes took the next pitch for a strike before grounding into a fielder's choice.
After Hunter grounded out, Riden drew a two-out walk but Shady got Ruby to pop-up to end the inning.
Central Mountain got two singles in the bottom half of the inning, but the first was erased on a steal attempt by a great throw from Morrison behind the plate and two fly outs ended the inning.
The Huskies last chance started with a flourish when Tara Kibe singled to start the seventh.
Wray added a base hit to put runners on the corners with one out.
Morrison bunted up the first-base line and Kaler lobbed the throw over Major's head and into right field to allow the first Huskies' run of the day to score.
"I thought toward the end of the game, I was thinking we were going to be able to get to her," McCurdy said. "That's when we really needed to be patient. Some of our kids were. She walked a couple kids there. We certainly helped her by making bad decisions with the pitches that we swung at."
Shirey, representing the tying run, struck out and Rhodes flew out to deep center to end the game and Mifflin County's season.
"It's always a tough, tough game to lose," McCurdy said. "You have to reflect back. We had a very good season. We have some good, young juniors looking forward to next year and we have a lot of good young talent coming next year. This hurts. In time, that will go away and we can look forward to next year."
Mifflin County ends the season 16-6 and will say goodbye to six seniors, including Lyter.
"It's definitely rough to end my senior year like that," Lyter said. "We had a great year though, so it makes up for that."