BELLEVILLE - Ethan Eichhorn led the way with two home runs and six runs batted in as Big Valley cruised to a 12-2 victory over Mifflin County Friday evening in the South Tier championship game of the District 5 9-10-year-old Little League baseball tournament in Belleville.
The game ended after four innings due to the 10-run rule.
Eichhorn's big bat and a complete game, two-hit pitching performance from Colby Bodtorf were instrumental in helping Big Valley win the Southern Tier and advance to play Northern Tier champion Philipsburg-Osceola, a 14-2 winner over Mountain Top, on Sunday. Big Valley will host that game.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY?KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Bryce Dobson, left, high-fives Big Valley’s Brycen Hassinger as he rounds second base on a solo home run in the first inning Friday evening in Belleville. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
Mifflin County drops into the consolation bracket, where it will face either Clearfield or Milesburg. The game between those two was postponed Friday until today. Mifflin County will be the home team in that contest, also at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Big Valley wasted no time in grabbing an early lead. Bodtorf retired Mifflin County in order, bringing the primed and ready Big Valley bats to the plate in the bottom of the first. Leadoff man Marshall Maidens got things started with a double to left field. Bodtorf attempted to bunt Maidens to third, but Mifflin County pitcher Brian Yetter was late with the throw to first, bringing up an early run-producing opportunity for Eichhorn, Big Valley's biggest power threat.
And produce he did. The slugger sent a fastball well over the left-center field fence, giving his team a 3-0 lead before Yetter could even record an out. Three batters later, Brycen Hassinger hit the first home run of his Little League career to extend the lead to 4-0.
Mifflin County regained some momentum when Cole Schlegel smacked a two-run blast to cut the lead in half, but Mifflin County failed to get the big inning they needed.
"I thought when Cole hit the two-run homer we were back in it, but we just couldn't get any more momentum after that," Mifflin County manager Darren Curry said.
Yetter's day was done after one inning, but Big Valley's offense was just getting started. The home team quickly got to Mifflin County reliever Bryce Dobson, touching him up for three runs in the second on RBI singles from Eichhorn and Hassinger.
"I know that's the way we can hit the ball," Big Valley manager Gary Eichhorn said. "We showed today that we have both good hitting and good pitching, and that was key for us. We just played our game, put the ball in play and let things happen."
Bodtorf ran into some trouble in the top of the third when Gavin Ream led off with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on a passed ball before Big Valley was able to record an out. Brando Souders then walked to put runners on the corners. Bodtorf wasn't fazed, though, striking out Jaxson Pupo and Dobson before retiring Yetter on a harmless ground ball to shortstop that ended the inning.
"Colby pitched a real good game, and he had a good day at the plate as well," Eichhorn said.
Big Valley pulled away in the bottom of the third. With two runners on, Bodtorf singled on a ground ball to center, but the ball got away from center fielder Souders and rolled all the way to the fence, allowing two runs to score and Bodtorf to easily get to third base. Eichhorn then fought off several tough pitches from Schlegel, who relieved Dobson, before sending a 3-2 fastball over the center field fence for his second bomb of the day.
Kaden Milliron scored later in the inning on an error to give Big Valley the 10-run lead it needed to end the game as long as Bodtorf could get three outs in the top of the fourth without allowing a run.
Bodtorf did so quite easily, fanning Schlegel and Conner Cherry and retiring Mark Shilling on a groundout to end it.
"Bodtorf threw a really good game," Curry said. "They made the defensive plays and did pretty much everything right. It wasn't our day."
Big Valley's offense pounded out eleven hits on the day to Mifflin County's two.
Marion Walker 6, Big Valley 5 (7 innings)
Big Valley's Major Division (11-12) team was eliminated by the Centre County squad in extra innings Friday. Big Valley was the last local team playing in that bracket, which is the age group that advances to the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
All but one game that included teams from Juniata and Snyder counties were postponed Friday after the Susquehanna Valley was hit with rain for a second straight day.
The 10-11 bracket did get the opening game in, which saw the two area leagues square off with one another. Juniata County came out on top, 9-7, and will play the winner of a game between Mifflinburg and Shik-Acorn Sunday. Snyder County will face the loser of that game Tuesday.
Area II 11-12 consolation games originally slated for Thursday were moved to today; Snyder County plays Warrior Run at 2 p.m. and Juniata County faces Shik-Acorn at 4. Those games are at Danny Green Field in Lewisburg.
The Junior (13-14) game between Juniata County and Selinsgrove that was to be played Thursday remains in limbo; no new date or time was determined Friday.
And the Area II 9-10 bracket has seen a number of shifts to accommodate both the championship and elimination games that have been washed out over the past two days. Juniata County will face Selinsgrove at 10 this morning in a top-bracket contest, while Snyder County and Milton square off at 4 in a consolation game. That tournament is at Acorn Park in Northumberland.