HOWARD - Simply scorching.
One would think that that would be a description of the weather Saturday, when Mifflin County Little League's 11-12-year softball all-stars battled another group of locals, Mount Union, in the Section 4 championship game at Howard Field early in what became a record hot day.
But it was the scoring heat from the pitching performance of Mifflin County hurler Eleana Eckley that warmed up the diamond, as she kept the Trojans' bats at bay, allowing just one hit in four innings. The offense also proved to be blistering, winning the title in a 10-0 shutout over the feisty Huntingdon County group.
The win qualifies Mifflin County for the state tournament, which is being hosted by State College and played on the Montressor Field, which is normally used for baseball. Pool play in the state event begins Tuesday with the locals facing Minersville.
"The pitching was good. It's always going to be good. We are going to be good pitching-wise, but today was all about the bats," Mifflin County manager Travis Eckley said. "We finally, finally hit the ball like we are capable of. We had some shots today, big runs and that's what it's all about."
Eleana Eckley struck out five on the way to the victory. Offensively, she added an RBI to her line on the score card.
Mifflin County roped seven hits in crucial times, picking up four first-inning runs and three more in the second, taking a quick 7-0 lead.
Hannah Kanagy went a perfect 2-for-2, blasting a triple and double while collecting three RBIs to lead the offensive explosion.
Though Mount Union finished without a run, it didn't take away from the effort of the youngsters who battled to the finished with the bases loaded as the game ended.
In the first inning, Eckley got the game going with a lead-off walk and teammate Shelly Bohn hustled out an infield single, putting runners on the corners with no one out.
Maddie Amspacker put Mifflin County on the board as she roped an RBI single, making it 1-0.
Bohn scored on a Mount Union miscue to add to the lead.
Mifflin County replenished the bases minutes later. Camryn Warnick and Laiken Turner walked, setting the stage for Ralie Goss. Goss did not disappoint, stroking a two-run single into the outfield, rounding out the first inning scoring.
"We are where we need to be on defense. We are far above average on defense and cannot say much more about it," Travis Eckley said. "The girls are working hard and they just keep getting better and are working hard. Its all good."
Mount Union was back in the field quickly as three of the first four batters ended as outs.
In the second inning, the Mifflin County bats were just getting started as the team added to its lead, posting three more. With two outs, Mifflin County got its rally hats on and went back to work.
Amspacker kept the inning going by reaching on a two-out walk. Hannah Fitzgerald added an infield hit. Warnick's single was enough to score a hustling Amspacker.
Then a Kanagy blast scored the rest of the runners as she rolled into third with a stand-up triple.
As the temperature rose, so did the play of Mifflin County, which finished off its opponent in workmanlike fashion, leaving Eleana Eckley staring at a no-hitter going into the fourth inning.
After plating three more insurance runs, Eckley faced the bases loaded but was cool under pressure as she and her defense just allowed one hit.
That hit came from the bat of Natalie Buckley.
" I thought we played fairly well today. I thought our downfall was not getting the hits when we needed them," Mount Union manager Tom Hollibaugh said. "We were very inconsistent with our sticks. We were more consistent yesterday but today we faced a real good team and we knew we had to play our A-game and they knew that too."
Along with Minersville, Mifflin County takes on West Point and Punxsutawney in the pool, which runs Tuesday through Thursday. The top two teams from each of two pools advance to a bracket with semifinals Friday and the title game Saturday. Mifflin County's pool games are at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and 8 the other two nights.