LEMONT - Take out one inning for Lewistown's Ryan Keefer, and the Predators take Game 1 of their Centre County League second-round playoff series with Lemont.
But unfortunately for the locals, all of the innings in the seven-frame game must be counted. The Lewistown righty allowed four runs in the first inning and then cruised the rest of the way.
And despite player/manager Abner Druckenmiller's two-run, inside-the-park home run in the fourth inning that almost rolled back to Mifflin County, the Predators fell 5-3 in the first of a five-game set with the Ducks.
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Lemont’s Gabe Menna (25) tries to break up a double play as Lewistown’s Chad Batista (throwing) fires to first to complete the play. Lewistown’s Tanner Kibe, who flipped the ball to Batista, looks on.
Lewistown hosts the second game of the series at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mifflin County High School.
Keefer went all seven for Lewistown, but his counterpart, Aaron Tressler, seemed to have more life on his fastball in the later stages of the game. Tressler allowed three runs and struck out eight in his outing.
"They're a good ball club and Tressler is a great pitcher," Druckenmiller said. "We faced him a lot and we always play him tough. That's all you can hope for is a good ball game."
A good ball game he got. And Keefer was just as effective as Tressler, minus the first frame. He worked quick 1-2-3 innings in the second and third, before giving up a run in the fourth. He pitched a 1-2-3 fifth and then sat down the Ducks in order again in the sixth.
"They got a couple runs on him early and then he settled down to keep them off balance," Druckenmiller said. "We got some runs and came close but couldn't close it out."
The four-run first inning for the Ducks started with Mount Union grad Johnny Martinez striping a single to right. Following an error on a bunt attempt in which Martinez scooted to third, Ben Sallade grounded out for the game's first run.
A fielder's choice for the second out and a single from Gabe Menna, along with an Erik Kempton double, put the home team up three. Jeff Moyer's single finished the scoring for Lemont in the first.
From there it was all Keefer. Although he failed to strike out a batter, the righty continued to keep the Lemont hitters off balance.
In the second inning, Lewistown's Nick Eversole and Morgan Barger, each Indian Valley graduates, singled to open the inning. Druckenmiller then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to bring home Eversole, who had gone to third on Barger's single.
The locals cut into the lead once again in the fourth inning with Druckenmiller's blast. Eversole once again started the inning off with a single. After a strikeout, Druckenmiller smashed one to deep left-center. As the ball continued to roll, the player/coach scurried around the bases. Eversole scored easily, and Druckenmiller beat a close play at the plate to make it 4-3.
"I got a good pitch to hit and got the bat on it," he said. "I'm too old to run those bases that fast anymore. But I legged it out and pulled us within one."
But the deficit would only increase from there for Lewistown. After the run in the bottom of the fourth for Lemont, neither team could plate a run the rest of the way. But that doesn't mean there wasn't any excitement.
Keefer had to work out of a bases-loaded jam to finish off the fourth to keep the Predators in the game. From there, he faced the minimum number of Ducks the rest of his outing.
Lewistown had runners on first and third in the sixth inning, but wasn't able to mount a comeback. In the seventh, its chances were just as great.
Keefer drew a one-out walk and was lifted for pinch-runner Nate Saltzer. Following a strikeout, Jonathan Wurley singled to right and Saltzer made it to third on a close play. But Druckenmiller grounded to short to end the threat and the game.
"This series is going to be back and forth," Druckenmiller said. "It's going to be tough - a lot of one-run and two-run wins."