LEWISTOWN - It looked as though the Mifflin County baseball team would lose its third-straight game Thursday as the squad trailed 3-0 to Central Dauphin East heading into the bottom of the seventh - but the Huskies clawed their way back - tying the game in the final frame and eventually winning on a walk-off hit by Lucas McKay in the bottom of the ninth to notch their first victory of the year, 4-3.
The weather finally seemed semi-appropriate for a baseball game and the Huskies' bats warmed up as well. After being no hit Tuesday, the squad put the ball in play, piecing together a nine-hit effort and forcing the Panthers to commit six errors which certainly boosted the Huskies in the comeback. The team stranded eight runners - normally a troubling number that leads to a loss - but the Panthers left 13 men on base as the home team's trio of pitchers kept the team in the game.
Mifflin County starter Rodney Patterson threw five innings of three-hit ball and allowed the lone run that stood up for six innings of the game - a first-inning sacrifice fly by Central Dauphin East's Ricky Bettinger.
Sentinel photo by MATT?STRICKER
Mifflin County’s Aaron Michaels, right, strokes the ball in Thursday’s Commonwealth Division game against Central Dauphin East, which the Huskies won 4-3 in extra innings. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
"Rodney did a great job," Mifflin County coach Travis Zook said. "We expect that out of him - he's in condition and he's a guy who pitches a lot in the offseason so he does a lot of traveling and keeps his arm in shape."
Zook added that Patterson's demeanor on the mound sets him apart from others who take the ball.
"He's a very cerebral pitcher - he does a good job at being efficient and he got us some ground balls and pop flies," he said. "The defense made some plays when we needed it to."
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County travels to Chambersburg Monday
Evan Pupo stepped to the hill for his first pitching appearance of the year and tossed one and two thirds, giving up three hits and two runs. Pupo battled during his first outing though as he struck out three batters and stranded Panthers on base.
"That's (Pupo's) first time he's been on the mound all year - we didn't want to let him go any more than 30-35 pitches," Zook said. "He got to that point and that's why we pulled him."
After surrendering the second and third runs, the Huskies looked to Logan Swineford to minimize the damage and get the team back in the dugout. He did just that, inducing an inning-ending ground ball to third to stop the bleeding.
"Swineford came in did a great job closing things down," Zook said. "He threw strikes and kept the ball down at the knees."
The Huskies trudged their way into the dugout - staring at a 3-0 deficit with three outs to play, but they weren't finished yet.
Following a flyout to center, Kyle Bodorf stepped to the plate and started things off with a single. Aaron Michaels walked next, giving Isaac Strohecher an opportunity with runners at first and second and only one out. Strohecher hit a ground ball to the right side which the second baseman collected and fed to the shortstop, who came across to get the out but a solid slide by Michaels disrupted the shortstop's relay to first and he threw the ball up the line. The throwing error allowed Bodorf to score and gave the Huskies runners at first and third with two outs. Three more Panther errors and a double by Hannon allowed the Huskies to tie the game.
Swineford faced five hitters in the top of the eighth, striking out the first and inducing two ground balls to get out of the inning unscathed.
The Panthers' Jacob Larson slapped a single in the bottom of the eighth but he was stranded and the Huskies took the field for what would be the final time in the top of the ninth.
In the ninth, after retiring the first two batters of the inning, Swineford hit Central Dauphin East's most consistent hitter Shaugn Greene. After stealing second then advancing to third on an error, Swineford stared at Greene at third from the stretch and delivered a pitch to Quentin Heckard who popped out to center to extinguish the threat.
The Huskies leadoff man struck out to start the home half of the ninth - but a one-out walk by Strohecher kept the inning alive, bringing Pupo to the plate. He drilled a groundball to the shortstop's backhand and a baserunning error cut down the runner at third. A passed ball and an error by the second baseman gave the Huskies runners at first and second, setting the stage for Lucas McKay. The shortstop connected on a Heckard fastball for a line drive over the third baseman's head, plating the winning run in walk-off fashion.
Zook said getting the first victory on a walkoff feels great, but admits that the season will continue to be tough, noting that every team will come ready to play.
"In the past, teams beat themselves - we're not going to have that any more," he said. "We've got to go out and win every game that we're going to win and if we don't come ready to play, it's either going to take us nine innings to win or we're not going to win at all."
Mifflin County (1-2, 1-2) heads to Chambersburg Monday.