MIFFLINTOWN - It took longer than Mark Mingle and his Juniata County American legion squad would have liked, but they can finally let out a sigh of relief - Post 298 is officially in the win column for the first time in 2014. After coming tantalizingly close in recent games, including an extra-innings defeat to Selinsgrove, Juniata finally came out on top, defeating Shamokin-Mount Carmel 6-4 Wednesday evening at Dreibelbis Field in Mifflintown.
The win was a long time coming, according to Mingle. The manager said he had been telling his players that they were close to a win in recent games and that if a few of the recurring mistakes that plagued Juniata would disappear, a win would be the result. That happened Wednesday as Blaise Roush tossed a complete game and received a lot of help from his defense - minus a forgettable third inning - in earning the win on the mound and helping put Post 298's struggles behind them, for the time being.
"We finally got one," Mingle said with a smile. "It feels super. We started out (this season) rough, but most of the games we've been competitive and playing really solid baseball, we just couldn't top the other team."
It was evident right from the start that Juniata would be competitive in this one. Roush hung a zero on the board in the top of the first and Chantz Swartz was hit by a Tom Campbell pitch to get things going for Juniata. After moving up on a balk and a Roush fielder's choice, Swartz scored on a two-out RBI single courtesy of Kyle Hart. An error later in the inning allowed Roush to cross the plate.
All was well for the locals until the third, the only inning that the defensive struggles that have plagued Juniata all season really made an appearance. Brady Haupt reached on a mishandled grounder and Roush plunked Tom Campbell to put runners on base with one out. Josiah Miller brought a run home with a single and Brett Williams followed him with a two-run single to center and advanced into scoring position when Swartz, the center fielder, made an error. Jacob Jones then made things worse by lining a double that rolled to the fence in left-center field for a 4-2 lead.
Juniata responded with a huge four-run third inning, the likes of which had eluded Post 298 all season. Chas Maguire and Roush reached base to begin the inning and Chad Eberle legged out a bunt single to load the bases with one out. Korey Martin and Dylan Loudenslager then ripped back-to-back singles that brought three total runs home. Swartz recorded an RBI groundout later in the inning before Jones relieved Campbell and finally got out of the inning.
The explosive third inning would be the end of the scoring. Jones was superb for Shamokin-Mount Carmel, not allowing in his remaining three innings of work, but Roush simply wouldn't let the visitors back in the game. He scattered seven hits throughout the contest and induced a number of weak flyouts.
"I think Blaise did an awesome, complete job," Mingle said of the lefty. "He's had a couple starts for me and we haven't backed him on the field defensively, and we did that tonight. I kept telling him, we're gonna give you a good game here one of these days, and we did that tonight He was just on, he let them put it in play and our defense stepped up and gave it a good effort tonight."
Juniata pulled out the win despite having no players with multiple hits. Loudenslager provided the crucial blow with his two-run single to right in the third with the bases loaded that plated two and made it 5-4.
Post 298 will be back in action Thursday with a home doubleheader against Catawissa with the first game scheduled to begin at 3 pm.