STATE COLLEGE - Pitchers played a big role in the outcome of Mifflin County's final game in the Pennsylvania Little League 11-12 softball state tournament Thursday.
A pair of Mifflin County hurlers struggled to find the zone early in the game, loading the bases twice on walks. Another one kept the defending state champs in check late in the game.
But it was West Point's Morgan Ryan, the starter for her team, who did most of the damage - at the plate. She belted a pair of extra-base hits, driving in two early runs as the west's top seed overcame a feisty Mifflin County challenge, winning 9-8 to close out pool play, and the season for the local all-stars, at Montressor Field Thursday.
Sentinel photo by STEVE?MANUEL
Mifflin County’s?Shelly Bohn, left, attempts to field a throw to second as West Point’s Olivia Glosner slides in safely during the Pennsylvania Little League 11-12-year-old softball tournament Thursday in State College. Mifflin?County fell to West Point 9-8.
West Point benefited from a two-run double by Meadow Uncapher in the final turn; she scored the winner when Olivia Glosner hit into a fielder's choice.
"That's the way it went this week," Mifflin County manager Travis Eckley said. "I went into this game looking to it as the last game for the 12-year-olds. Winning was obviously on my mind, but at this point it was just making sure the girls went out on a high note - and I guess it worked."
But in the early going, it didn't seem like it would be that close. Ryan tripled and scored the first run in the first inning, then doubled as three walks and an error contributed to a four-run second, giving West Point a 5-0 lead.
After three innings - and three pitchers - Mifflin County finally solved Ryan, and held West Point without a run for the first time in the game.
And in the top of the fourth, the offense finally found its way.
Camryn Warnick opened the frame with a free pass, then advanced when Hannah Fitzgerald hit into an infield error.
Hannah Kanagy pushed one run across the plate with a powerful fly that bounced over the fence in center for a ground-rule double, a ball that easily would have scored two - in fact, it did until Fitzgerald was sent back to third after moving more than two bases.
But she got home anyway, when Uncapher, the first relief pitcher, walked a couple more, with an RBI to Ralie Goss on one of those. And the bases being heavy with runners proved to be a problem for West Point, when another error on an infield grounder by Shelly Bohn led to another pair on the scoreboard.
Suddenly, it was a game. And with just one run scored in the bottom, Mifflin County had two more chances - but still had a two-run deficit to overcome.
"If we would have hit the ball and done what we did there offensively in our other two games, we'd still be playing," Eckley said. "You've got to hand it to them, to come over here and play a game like that, that really was all about heart - they showed it. I guess if you're going to play one game the best, that was it."
With two outs in the fifth, Sabrina Stuck erased one of those with a rope into shallow left that plated Camryn Warnick, who reached on an error. The two-out rally turned into a one-run lead when Ralie Goss belted one into center field, sending two runs over the dish. Eleana Eckley found the same hole in the defense with a triple that made it 8-6 Mifflin County.
By the bottom of the fifth, Kanagy not only had found the zone - the strike zone, that is - but was in the zone, striking out all three batters she faced in that inning. But she ran into trouble when the top of the order came up at the end of the game.
"You can't be any prouder of them," Eckley said. "We gave West Point the toughest game they've been in."