LEWISTOWN - It was a seaon of almosts, what ifs, and should haves for Mifflin County's baseball team in its inaugural season in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division. The Huskies finished two games below the .500 mark in the competitive league and fell to long-time District 6 foe Central Mountain, 5-3, Thursday in the Class AAAA semifinals.
Errors plagued the young squad all season - a lack of run production didn't help either. The Huskies could have finished 11-5 in the Commonwealth Division as the team dropped four contests by one run. Chambersburg, Central Dauphin, Cumberland Valley and Cedar Cliff all nipped the Huskies by a single run this season. Despite the disappointing ending to the season, coach Travis Zook is optimistic about the team's performance in the league and the future.
"I fully expected our Mid-Penn year to be right around .500 and we were pretty close to that - we did pretty well," he said. "I was obviously optimistic that we could do better than that but I thought if we could be around the middle of the pack it would prepare us for District 6."
What if the team committed fewer errors this season? Would it have won more games? Maybe. But one thing is certain, or at least Zook hopes is true - his team will learn from the mistakes and take the success it experienced in the challenging league this season to the 2014 campaign and beyond. Zook noted his excitement for joining the new league and facing tougher opponents.
"I really enjoyed going to the (Mid-Penn)," he said. "The brand of baseball we played last year in the Mountain League has kind of been declining. I know there's always down years in the leagues but I'm really looking forward to it next year - it gives us a higher mark or benchmark to set ourselves competitive wise."
Despite an anemic offense at times, Mifflin County's pitching staff really helped the team keep things close. Penn State bound senior Seth Wagner fulfilled the coaching staff's expectations and freshman Isaiah Kearns chewed up some innings as well. Junior Heath Hidlay and senior Rodney Patterson were also staples on the Huskies' pitching staff.
"Our pitching progressed throughout the year," Zook said. "I know we had full expectations of what (Seth) could potentially do this year and he lived up to those expectations. Having (Isaiah) come up and throw - that was excellent and he's coming back next year."
Hidlay was no slouch either from the bump and Zook noted his importance and contributions to the team's success.
"(Heath) was probably our second best pitcher - statistically - we have him coming back next year and Lucas McKay did a good job when he came in to relieve," he said.
Mifflin County did dazzle its fans at times this season, and the Huskies were able to knock off the Commonwealth's top team in Red Land 13-7. The Huskies pounded 12 hits and committed just one error en route to the upset victory. Kearns tossed 6 1/3 innings of six-hit ball and struck out five Patriots in his first varsity appearance. Hayden Snook went 4-4 from the plate and accounted for five of the team's runs.
What if the team could put it together like it did against Red Land every game? The Huskies could be dangerous.
A lack of consistency fielding the baseball and getting timely hits proved to be the Achilles heel for the purple and black. When considering the number of strikeouts and errors compiled this season and looking at the team's overall record (9-11), it's easy to be optimistic about next year.
The grind-it out games in the tough league coupled with young players who gained valuable experience this spring will undoubtedly help the Huskies next year.
"Hopefully we continue to improve and next year we're in the same situation," Zook said of the team's district playoff appearance. "Whether we're playing Central Mountain, State College or Altoona, we'll be better prepared."
Zook's squad has experienced success when the energy level is high and positive attitudes dominate - a theme the skipper has tried to instill in his players all season long - but one that was inconsistent and sporadic. Mifflin County will lose some valuable cogs next season but Zook hopes his youthful squad will rise to the occasion.