NEW BERLIN - Facing a 3-0 deficit and elimination from the District 13 Little League Juniors all-star tournament, Juniata County needed someone to step up and make an impact in its consolation round matchup with Warrior Run.
Jared Shirk did just that, taking the mound in relief of starter Spensor Page in the second inning and striking out seven in 5 2/3 scoreless innings to propel Juniata County to a 7-3 come-from-behind victory Monday evening in New Berlin.
Shirk entered the game with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the second. He allowed one of Page's runners to score on a walk, but avoided the big inning by striking out Matt Gummo and getting Noah Showers to fly out to right field.
Sentinel photo by CRAIG?UREY
Juniata County’s Jared Shirk pitches against Warrior Run on Monday in a Little League District 13 Juniors (13-14) elimination game in New Berlin.
Warrior Run still led by three runs after having pushed across two in the first off of Paige, but Shirk's entrance shifted the momentum in Juniata's favor.
The locals took advantage of Warrior Run starting pitcher Gage Anzulovich's control issues in the bottom of the second. Shirk reached base on an error and advanced to third on consecutive walks by Page and Zack Snyder. Calum Faust then smacked a bases-loaded single to get Juniata on the board. However, Anzulovich was able to get out of trouble by striking out Seth Rowe and retiring Korey Martin and Dakota Nealman to end the inning.
Shirk made it clear over the next five innings that his offense would not have to worry about climbing out of an even bigger deficit. The right-hander only allowed three hits the rest of the way, and only two baserunners made it past first base. Shirk's lively fastball kept hitters off-balanced and drew several late, weak swings with two strikes.
"Jared did a very good job of coming in and throwing strikes," Juniata County manager Danny Snyder said. "We struggled to throw strikes at the beginning and it put us behind so we had to make that pitching change."
After plating another run in the third to cut the lead to one, Juniata County knotted the score in the fifth. Eli Lenig drew a walk, stole second, and scored on Josh Parson's single to left. Shirk then struck out, but Parson made the most of the at-bat by swiping second and advancing to third on a wild pitch.
He then scored when Page reached base on an error by Warrior Run third baseman Bryce Woland, giving Juniata County a lead that it would never give back.
The sixth inning saw Warrior Run hand more scoring opportunities to Juniata County via bases on balls. Ty Kirkner walked the first three batters he faced and he then compounded matters when a fastball got away from him and struck Parson's helmet, forcing in a run.
Shirk followed with a sacrifice fly and Snyder added an RBI groundout for a comfortable 7-3 lead.
"I told the kids, sometimes you gotta be able to lay off the high ones," Snyder said. "It worked out really well. I told them if you lay off the high ones then good things will happen. We got some walks, some timely hits and got a win."
Shirk surrendered two base hits in the seventh but easily navigated his way out of trouble to end the game and earn himself the win on the mound.
Juniata County returns to New Berlin Friday for the third consolation round. The locals will face either Berwick or Shik-Acorn in the 5 p.m. game; those two are slated to play today.