BELLEFONTE - The district champion is the only team that ends the season the way it wants to in postseason play.
Tuesday, the Mifflin County 9- and 10-year-old Little League all stars lost their chance to be that team.
Taking an 11-4 loss to Bellefonte in the consolation bracket, Mifflin County dropped out of the District 5 tournament, ending the team's season and putting off the championship dream for another year.
Sentinel photo by CHRISTOPHER?SHANNON
Mifflin County’s Jaxson Pupo waits for the throw home as Bellefonte’s Morgan Arnold scores behind him during a Little League District 5 9-10 tournament game in Bellefonte Tuesday evening.
"I was pleased with our kids, what more can you say? They're a great bunch of kids," Mifflin County coach Rod Henry said - and the kids played like the great bunch Henry described them to be until the very last out.
Trailing 11-2 after a giant 10-run inning by Bellefonte in the third, the Mifflin County boys battled the whole game, refusing to hang their heads and tacking on two more runs for the 11-4 final score. But despite their spirited effort the damage had already been done.
Bellefonte's climb to the top began when Seth Shuey and Bobby Marsh led off with back-to-back doubles to bring in the team's first run of the inning, and from there the host team took advantage of a handful of walks, a couple Mifflin County errors and hits throughout the lineup to take the big lead.
In the inning, Bellefonte batted through the order and then some, as eight of the first nine batters scored, including Shuey and Marsh, who each scored twice.
However, even if Mifflin County had every reason to be discouraged, it sprang right back into action, holding Bellefonte hitless through the remainder of the game as the locals tried to claw their way back.
An outstanding double play from Brian Yetter at shortstop and shut-down pitching by relievers Cole Schlegel and Mark Shilling Jr. contributed to Mifflin County's comeback effort on the defense, and RBIs from Jaxson Pupo and Bryce Dobson plus aggressive base running by Josiah Yearick and Trey Shoemaker in the fifth put the final score at 11-4.
"I thought they did great. They could have gave up, they could have rolled over, but I thought they played well for being down that many runs. At their age it's very easy for them to give up, but our kids didn't give up. I'm quite proud of them for that," Henry said.
However, before Bellefonte took the big lead, Mifflin County scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first when Pupo got around on a Shuey offering and jacked it over the left-center fence. It was Pupo's first out-of-the-park home run of the all-star season. Then to follow him up, Bryce Dobson reached on a single to shallow center field and Yetter brought him home with a slow roller to the second baseman.
It was a great start for Mifflin County with the 2-0 lead - but unfortunately for the locals, winning pitcher Shuey settled in after the first and held Mifflin County to just one hit through the next three innings. With his high velocity from the mound, Shuey finished with six strikeouts, making it difficult for Mifflin County to mount any offensive threats.
"He kept us off balance. He kept us off balance a lot," Henry said of Shuey.
In the bottom of the fifth, Mifflin County began to rattle Shuey with back-to-back walks to Yearick and Shoemaker to begin the inning. From there, tall south paw Marsh took the mound, allowing Yearick and Shoemaker to score, but otherwise holding the locals scoreless through the remainder of the game.