MILROY - The Mifflin County Stars notched a win over their crosstown rival early in the Centre County League season, and with a doubleheader meeting at Armagh Field Sunday, the former AAABA team took solid aim at the senior local entry in the men's league.
They just missed - a three-run sixth almost propelled the Stars to victory, but the Predators came back for a 5-4 advantage in the opener. Then the Lewistown franchise lit up the Stars' pitching for seven runs in the fourth inning, and answered a Mifflin County comeback attempt in the final turn, grabbing a 13-11 win.
The league tournament begins next weekend.
Sentinel photo by MATT?STRICKER
Mifflin County’s Tim Beck, right, slides safely into home after a wild pitch by Lewistown pitcher Ryan Keefer (24), covering home Sunday in Milroy.
The mixup could well have been an all-star game featuring players from the last few seasons of Lewistown and Indian Valley high school ball, with a handful of Huskies stirred in for good measure. The rosters were dotted mainly with 20-somethings who recently played college ball - some still are - with a couple names in the lineup who have spent half their lives on the diamond.
Because the teams aren't formed by territory, there were allegiances matched from the past, and a few cases where someone was an opponent as recently as the spring just ended.
The family atmosphere stretched off the field, especially in the first game, which was umpired by a father-son duo.
But the fact that it was fun didn't mean it wasn't serious once the ball was in play.
In the opener, the Predators struck first, but fell behind in the sixth, when Colton Spade smacked a leadoff homer over the right-center field fence, and both Chris Tressler and Nick Pupo singled and eventually scored. Pupo pushed his teammate across after Tressler stole a base; Dalton Long's RBI single gave the Stars a short-lived 4-3 lead.
Cody Heane made it even in the bottom of the inning with a single that turned into a run on a Sean Heckert fielder's choice.
The Chad Batista found the same sweet spot Spade discovered, sending a walk-off homer into the parking lot to close out the win.
The Predators never trailed until late in the second game, but each time the Lewistown team built a lead Mifflin County seemed to have an answer. In the top of the seventh, Tanner Kibe was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to plate the go-ahead run, which made the score 12-11.
That inning started with a Nick Eversole double; he came home when player/manager Abner Druckenmiller singled for an RBI, then scored the tying run on a Heane base hit.
The final frame was tame compared to the fourth, where the real battle took place, and the sixth, where the Stars took the lead for the first time.
The fourth was a slugfest that came after three relatively low-scoring innings; the Predators were up 3-2 when they came to bat in the top of the inning.
And stayed there.
Singles by Druckenmiller and Heane came first; an error and a walk filled the bags the first time. Heckert hit a sacrifice fly, Hartman an RBI double and another walk left three runners aboard again.
That proved to be the Stars' undoing - Ryan Keefer put one over the fence for a grand slam.
In return, Mifflin County erupted for five runs, with a two-run double by Kyle Morrow and a three-run home run by Nick Pupo doing the damage. After a scoreless fifth, Evan Pupo - back in town after playing for the Mifflin County Legion team in a wood-bat tournament all weekend - hit a two-run single and sluggish pitching allowed a pair to walk over the plate - a slim, one-run lead for the Stars.
It didn't hold, and they had nothing left in the seventh.
It was the final game for both teams, although some teams in the league will be playing into the week to establish the final playoff seeding.
Despite the two losses, Mifflin County (5-15) holds onto the eighth and final playoff spot. The Predators (14-6), in fourth before Sunday's doubleheader, could finish as high as second depending on the outcomes of other games. The tournament begins in a week.