THORNDALE - The Mifflin County 9- and 10-year-old girls softball all-star team was one out away Friday from having its magical season end on a sour note. Instead, the local girls banded together and rallied to score four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning for a dramatic 5-4 Little League Softball state tournament victory over Punxsutawney.
The locals, trailing 4-1 at the time, opened the bottom of the sixth with a walk and had the runner reach third base, before a double play cleared the bases and put Mifflin County on the brink.
But Mifflin County's "never say die" mentality kicked in once again with Madison Ream smacking a two-out double over the Punxsutawney right fielder's head. Caitlyn Kick followed with a walk and Allysa Souders loaded the bases after getting hit by a pitch.
That brought Chloe Fitzgerald to the plate, who battled before sending a 3-1 pitch to deep right and clearing the bases with a double to knot things up at four.
Bailee Zendt, down to her last strike, became the hero, smacking the ball just a few feet fair down the right-field line to plate Fitzgerald with the game-winning run.
Mifflin County coach Jason Treaster said he knew his team had enough fight left to come back and win the game.
"I said to the girls before that last inning, 'This ain't over yet. We can still score some runs,' and they went out and did it," Treaster said. "These girls have big hearts. They're a great group of kids."
Not to be overshadowed by the exciting conclusion were the pitching efforts from Ream and Taylor Ciccolini, who combined for a no-hitter. Ream threw the majority of the game, recording 14 strikeouts, including the last five batters of the night.
While the strikeouts helped the Mifflin County staff, the walks given up nearly led to a different result. Punxsutawney had a batter reach safely on a walk in each of the first two innings, but failed to get the runs across.
It wasn't until the third inning that a leadoff walk eventually scored, giving Punxsutawney a 1-0 lead. A walk to open the fourth inning came around to score, putting the locals down 2-0.
Mifflin County cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth when Tori Nichols got the 3-0 green light and sent a pitch to deep right for a leadoff double. Mifflin County had two more runners reach base in the inning, however Nichols was the only one to cross the plate.
Mifflin County's Jaylin Moore made a spectacular sliding grab to record the opening out of the fifth inning, but three consecutive walks and an error followed to give Punxsutawney the 4-1 lead with six outs to go.
For the local squad, Treaster said it was a night and a season the girls will never forget.
"Not every person gets to compete in a state tournament and play against teams of this level," he said. "This is something these girls will remember for the rest of their lives."