STATE COLLEGE - The Mifflin County 10- and 11-year-olds jumped out to an early 8-3 lead over State College National in the District 5 Little League championship game but couldn't withstand a furious late-innings comeback in a 10-8 defeat Friday evening at State College's Montressor Field.
Having emerged from the consolation bracket after a loss to State College earlier in the tournament, Mifflin County would have forced a winner-take-all championship game today with a win. As it turns out, the seven combined runs State College pushed across in the final two innings proved costly for the locals and spelled the end of their tournament run.
The intense "win or go home" situation didn't wind up in Mifflin County's favor, but manager Josh Snook still took positives out of the all-star season.
"I'm proud of my kids," he said. "I told them I wouldn't want to coach any other team besides them. They're all good kids, not only just baseball players, but good sports, and we're real proud of them for getting here."
State College, playing as the visitors in their home park after the pregame coin flip, took an early first-inning lead on a two-run, two-out error, but Mifflin County quickly seized control in the bottom half by scoring five runs of its own. The main contributors to the onslaught were Jacob Krepps, Hunter Wagner and Shane Dippery; the trio recorded three straight hits that ended up scoring four runs. Gage Bishop added an RBI groundout later in the frame to extend the lead to three.
"They came out and hit right off the bat," Snook said of his team. "They were fired up and ready to play."
Mifflin County scored two more runs in the second thanks to three State College errors. Blane Dickson then laced an RBI single in the third to give Mifflin County its largest lead of the day at 8-3. Starting pitcher Dippery looked strong, having blanked State College in the third, and it looked as if the teams would be heading over the mountain to Lewistown for a rematch today.
But it was all downhill from there for Mifflin County. State College loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth. Two came in to score when Joe Nastasi doubled, and another scored on an error. Jason Turrene and Nick Clark then added RBI singles to tie the game heading into the final inning and a half.
Nastasi relieved State College starter Zach DeCarmine in the fifth and pitched very effectively, allowing zero runs in his two innings and only letting one Mifflin County batter reach base.
State College kept the momentum going into the sixth, putting runners on first and third with no outs before Snook lifted Dippery and replaced him with Bishop. Adam Van Horn then produced the winning run with a deep sacrifice fly. Nastasi then doubled for the second straight inning to make it 10-8 and solidify the win.
State College survived a six-error day on defense as DeCarmine was able to limit damage and get out of several jams.
Dippery pitched much better than the ten runs he surrendered indicate. Four were unearned and several of the eleven hits he surrendered were simply well-placed and not necessarily hit hard.
"Dippery threw a heck of a game," Snook said. "We fell a little short there at the end, but I'm proud of these kids."