WILLIAMSPORT - As Williamsport catcher Damone Buxton looked high into the sky, he lost the baseball. Pitcher Gabe Rader followed a step behind and made the catch, squashing a Mifflin County sixth-inning, bases-loaded threat.
It was about the only thing Buxton did not see Tuesday at Logue Field. That sequence was a role reversal, too. Throughout the game, Buxton picked up his teammates and served as its primary catalyst.
Buxton went 3-for-3, drove in a run and played outstanding defense as Williamsport defeated non-league opponent Mifflin County, 9-4, and won its fourth straight. Buxton broke out of a slump and was part of three rallies that produced eight runs.
Sentinel photo by MARK NANCE
Mifflin County catcher Hunter Wright, left, tags Williamsport’s Ian Dinsmore for an out in the fourth inning when Dinsmore got caught between third and home on a Zach Miller double.
It wasn't the sixth inning, but the second, that Mifflin County coach Travis Zook pointed to as critical in the contest. That was the one where the Millionaires put five runs on the board, toppling the Huskies' early 1-0 lead and putting the home team in charge.
"They were a good ball team and they played well," Zook said. "We had a couple miscues in the outfield in the second inning.
"That was really the difference in the game."
Williamsport pitchers Davey Ludwikowski, Gabe Rader and Ian Dinsmore allowed just one run in six innings while Rader and Evan Steele made game-changing fourth-inning catches. The Millionaires turned a 1-0 second-inning deficit into a 7-1 third-inning lead and delivered nine hits while scoring at least nine runs for a fourth straight game.
Buxton's second-inning RBI single, that followed Steele's lead-off double, tied the game 1-1. Rader added a sacrifice fly and Williamsport scored three runs on a two-out error, taking a 5-1 lead. Buxton belted a single to the opposite field an inning later and pinch runner Sam Engel (3 runs) scored a batter later on Isaac Foust's triple. Alec Fantaskey added a sacrifice fly and Williamsport led 7-1.
The next time he batted, Buxton again started a rally, hitting a lead-off single. Rader finished the rally with a two-out RBI double. Buxton is known as a quiet leader but his bat spoke volumes yesterday. So did his defense as Buxton made a perfect throw to nail a runner trying to steal in the first-inning while stifling a potential big inning.
Mifflin County (8-6) scored three fourth-inning runs to pull within 7-4 and might have taken the lead if Steele and Rader did not make tremendous catches. Steele, a sophomore right fielder, made a lunging, running catch for the first out, turning what would have been a two-run double into a long sacrifice fly. The Huskies had a man on second with two outs when Rader sprinted toward the center field fence, reached far and robbed Kyle Bodtorf of an RBI triple that would have made it 7-5.
"Those were beautiful catches. If they don't make those it's a different game," Williamsport coach Dave Howe said. "Gabe is a tremendous outfielder. He's one of the best outfielders in this area. Evan is only a sophomore but he covers a lot of ground. They both have rockets for arms and they are great outfielders."
Mifflin County threatened again in the sixth, loading up the bases with two outs. When Buxton lost the high pop-up a few feet down the first-base line, Rader was right there next to him, making the catch. It is that ability to pick each other up that has helped Williamsport turn around its season.
Mifflin County used the game - the second of five the Huskies will play this week - to get more people into the lineup. Among of the 21 players who entered the game for Mifflin County were three pitchers and two catchers.
"I think they did a really good job (pitching)," Zook said. "It was a difficult game and we got a lot of different guys in. I think the guys will bounce back."
They need to - the Huskies travel to Cedar Cliff today then have back-to-back home-and-home contests with State College to end the week.