REEDSVILLE - Tuesday's title game between Mifflin County and Bald Eagle Area promised to be a pitching exhibition, and for a couple of innings that was true of both sides.
The first to crack was the Eagles' Madison Fisher, who despite a stellar job - nine strikeouts against 20 batters in 4 1/3 innings - saw her hard work erased by a pair of solid hits and a few untimely walks in a four-run fourth. Mifflin County took advantage, winning the Little League District 5 9-10 softball championship by a 10-4 margin.
The local squad hasn't far to go for the Section 4 tournament - it will be played at API Field in State College, where the tournament trail began for the future Huskies. Mifflin County's first game is July 16 against the winner of a game between the champs from Districts 7 and 11.
Sentinel photo by MATT?STRICKER
Mifflin County’s Taylor Ciccolini slides across the plate for the first run of the game, beating Bald Eagle Area catcher Kylie Swartz, left. Eagles’ pitcher Madison Fisher is helping to cover on the play, which began as a wild pitch. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
Sentinel photo by MATT?STRICKER
Mifflin County relief pitcher Madison Ream (16) stops a scoring attempt by Bald Eagle Area’s Kylie Swartz in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday in Reedsville.
Mifflin County entered the fifth with a 2-1 lead thanks to a solid base hit by Taylor Ciccolini and just the second walk issued by Fisher, to Allysa Souders. A wild pitch allowed the first run to score and a fielding error the second. Ciccolini's offensive contributions were small but noticeable, but her defense stood out - the shortstop had her glove on the ball for every out but one made in the field by her team.
Mifflin County manager Jason Treaster called her an "excellent ballplayer - a couple great plays in the field, good throws. She's great all-around."
Bald Eagle Area got a run back in the bottom of the inning, but after a scoreless fourth the locals opened a lead that soon became insurmountable.
Pinch hitters Novaliegh Hubler and Ali Wagner wrapped a pair of walks around a Ciccolini sacrifice bunt. Wagner was the out in a bases-loaded fielder's choice, but two more walks from Fisher and RBI singles by Madison Ream and Tori Nichols - the former a two-run ball - put Mifflin County well ahead, and led to a pitching change by the Eagles.
"We got to the pitcher and it helped us out a lot. The pitching of these two teams is outstanding," Treaster said. "They're a very good team - we knew that coming in. We knew we had to make some runs to get past them again."
All it takes, he said, is one good inning, and that's what his team got in the fifth.
"It was a huge inning," Treaster said. "It was good to get a good cushion on them because the last game was so tight."
But it wasn't over. Two of Mifflin County's three errors contributed to a pair of Eagle runs in the same inning. But more pitching problems stationed two more Mifflin County runners on the bags in the sixth, and Bailee Zendt singled to pick up her second RBI of the game.
Madison Ream delivered the last two runs with a triple that probably should have stopped at third; Treaster waved her on and was unable to get home ahead of the defense.
Ream, who pitched the final half for the winning side, gave up one run, but struck out two to end the game. At that point, the bases were loaded and Treaster admitted he considered going back to Fitzgerald, the winning pitcher.
"I decided against it," he said. "That's what (Ream) does - she walks batters and then gets out of it. She's a fireballer."
Fitzgerald, who struck out eight while walking just three in five innings, kept her cool despite having runners on base - and in scoring position - in every inning. The Eagles left four behind while she was in the circle.
"She was that way in the first game, too," Treaster said. "Our pitchers are well seasoned - not a lot bothers them when they're out there."