LEWISTOWN - The Mifflin County American Legion baseball team's opening weekend went as well as manager Bernie Howard could have hoped- the locals followed up their 9-3 win over Bellefonte on Saturday with a 9-5 defeat of Beech Creek Saturday night at Rec Park in Lewistown.
The outcome of this one was never really in doubt. Mifflin County took advantage of Beech Creek starting pitcher Tony Saltsman's command issues right away, drawing three consecutive walks to load the bases with just one out in the first. After an error by Beech Creek third baseman Cole Hanley allowed a run to score, Isaac Strohecker cleared the bases with a double into the left-center field gap, giving Mifflin County a comfortable 4-0 cushion that would never be seriously threatened.
Most of that was due to Mifflin County starter Heath Hidlay's effectiveness on the mound. The right-hander went six solid innings without ever giving Beech Creek much of a chance to get back in the game. The only blips on the radar came in the third and sixth innings; the third saw Hidlay momentary lose his command and walk in two runs and the sixth was a three-run frame for Beech Creek courtesy of a combination of sloppy Mifflin County defense and weakly-hit balls falling in for base hits. However, Hidlay never lost his composure or let Beech Creek back in the game. He finished with seven strikeouts.
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
Mifflin County Legion League skipper Bernie Howard congratulates Mifflin County’s Shane Connahan as he rounds third after Connahan connected on a two-run homerun in the third inning at Rec Park in Lewistown.
"He had one or two little bumps but for the most part he had real good control, he kept the ball down," Howard said. "They really never got to him. His pitch count got a little high, but he did a real quality job."
After tacking on two more runs in the second to give them a 6-0 lead, Mifflin County chased Saltsman with one out in the third. He was relieved by Ken Heverly, who proved to be much more effective, only allowing two more hits and fanning 8 Mifflin County batters in his own 3 2/3 innings of work as he finished the game on the hill for the visitors.
One of the more interesting statistics from the game was Mifflin County plating 9 runners on only five base hits- a product of Mifflin County's speed on the base paths, patience at the plate, and a bad night for a Beech Creek defense that committed a whopping nine errors in the six innings they were on the field.
"I think that's one of the strengths of this team, that we feel we can manufacture runs," Howard remarked. "We have exceptional speed and I thought we ran the bases really well. I thought we took advantage of everything they offered and turned them into runs. You have to take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you to be successful and our team has those characteristics."
Tyler Powell relieved Hidlay to start the seventh and tossed a quick 1-2-3 inning to end the game. Strohecker finished with two hits and two stolen bases and Hidlay added a triple and a run scored to his impressive evening.
The win moves Mifflin County to 2-0 and gives the locals some momentum as they face a tough Central Penn League schedule this summer.
"For the most part, I felt like we controlled the tempo of the game and that's important to us to be successful," Howard said. "Beech Creek is, in our opinion, one of the top teams in our league, so this was a big game for us, especially this early in the season."
Mifflin County 9, Bellefonte 3
Ross Torquato pitched six strong innings and Shane Connahan provided the big offensive blows with a two-run home run and an rbi double as Mifflin County opened the 2014 season with a convincing 9-3 win over Bellefonte Saturday afternoon at Rec Park.
Mifflin County scored twice in the bottom of the first inning on back-to-back RBI hits by John Michael Maclay and Connahan.
Connahan's drive over the right centerfield fence in the bottom of the third inning pushed the lead to 4-0. Mifflin County also added an unearned run in the inning.
Bellefonte broke into the scoring column in the top of the fifth when Taylor Smith doubled home a run. They added two more in the top of the sixth when they strung together a pair of hits, a hit batsman and two walks. Torquato ended any thoughts of a Bellefonte comeback when, with one out and runners on second and third, he fanned the next two hitters and ended the inning.
Ty Bodtorf came on in the seventh and fanned each of the three hitters he faced to nail down the victory.
Mifflin County turned two double plays and was aided by several other strong defensive plays.