LEWISTOWN - Saturday evening was certainly a great time to be a fan of Mifflin County All-Star baseball. After trailing State College National nearly the entire game and facing a five-run deficit heading into the final inning, the local 11 and 12-year old squad scored seven runs in a wild top of the sixth inning and held on to win its District 5 opener 14-12 at Rec Park in Lewistown.
Mifflin County used home runs from Brian Yetter, Cam Shawver and Jackson Pupo to keep the score competitive in the first five innings, which were dominated by State College.
Mifflin County, playing as the visitors because State College won the pre game coin flip, took the lead right away when Yetter hit a towering, two-run shot to right field. The lead was short-lived, though, as State College quickly got to starting pitcher Tristan Lockett for four runs of its own in the bottom half. The teams traded runs in the second and Lockett and State College starter Sam Knipe both hung zeroes on the board in the third. Mifflin County cut the lead to 5-4 in the top of the fourth but State College responded in a big way in the bottom half.
Pinch-hitter Nate Polo got things started with a single and advanced to third when Lockett walked Cole Pammer and Brady Gess to load the bases. Lockett then plunked Knipe to force in a run. Cam Shawver took over on the mound after the hit-by-pitch. Kevin Karstetter greeted him with an RBI single. Shawver would get out of the inning, but not before Joe Nastasi ripped a two-run single and Kevin Kurzinger recorded an RBI groundout to push the lead to 10-4.
"Defensively, it was the first game, and the kids were nervous," Mifflin County manager Rod Henry said. "We'll have to clean things up a bit but State College hit the ball well."
Mifflin County gained some ground in the fifth thanks to Shawver's two-run blast over the center field fence and Lockett later scoring on a passed ball, but State College took the momentum right back with two runs of their own, putting the score at 12-7 heading into the dramatic final inning.
The locals made it clear right from the start of the inning that they wouldn't go away quietly. Rodney Henry got things going with a leadoff single off of State College reliever Joe Nastasi. Noah Wright followed with a single, and a Blain Dickson walk loaded the bases with no outs. Evan Smith then ripped a two-RBI double that one-hopped the left field fence and chased Nastasi from the game as Polo took over on the mound.
As it turned out, he couldn't stop the Mifflin County comeback, either. He walked Yetter and Shawver, forcing in a run, and then gave up a huge two-RBI single to Lockett that knotted the score at 12 with no outs recorded in the inning. That's when things got truly crazy. With Shawver at third and Lockett at second, Pupo lifted a fly ball to right field that was easily hauled in. Shawver didn't tag up, but Lockett did and Mifflin County found themselves with two runners on third base. The relay throw came in to Polo, who quickly fired to third so Lockett could be tagged out. The throw was low, however, and skipped to the fence in foul territory, allowing both runners to score and put Mifflin County on top for good. Karstetter came on for State College and got the remaining three outs.
Henry was extremely pleased with how his team fought back.
"They didn't give up," he said. "I told them going out there that inning, that these three outs are the hardest to get in baseball. And not one of them gave up on me. They stayed within themselves, put the ball ion play, and a baserunning blunder turned into two runs and put us in the lead."
As remarkable as the comeback was, it wouldn't have been possible without the solid pitching of Shawver to keep Mifflin County in the game. He allowed just three runs in three innings against a potent State College offense, and struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth to preserve the victory and keep Mifflin County in the winners' bracket. He finished with a game-high nine strikeouts.
"Cam came in and shut the door when we needed him to, he threw lights out. Couldn't be more proud of him," Henry said.
Four of five local teams were winners as play commenced in the 9-10 and 11-12 age groups and the junior tournament. In District 13 9-10 play, Snyder County beat Milton 10-0 and Juniata got by Mifflinburg 9-6. In 11-12 Area II play, Snyder County eked out a 7-6 win over Mifflinburg while Juniata dropped a 14-0 decision to Selinsgrove. Juniata's junior team fell to Berwick, 9-2.