LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County manager Bernie Howard advocates a simple philosophy for winning baseball - pitching and defense wins championships.
In the opening round of the Central Penn League American Legion playoffs, the offense got into the act for Post 287. The result was a 16-1, five-inning assault that gave Mifflin County, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the victory over a stunned Philipsburg squad.
A 15-run, 11-hit barrage in the third and fourth innings did the damage and moved Post 287 into a matchup with Bellefonte, a 7-1 winner over State College, today at 2 p.m. at Rec Park.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Kyle Bodtorf, left, slides into home plate behind catcher Vince McDowell during the second inning Friday evening at Rec Park in Lewistown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
"We preach that solid defense and good pitching win championships. We had that tonight but we also had the offensive punch," Howard said. "I've said all along this is a dynamic group of athletes and every one of them is capable of this type of production at any given time and tonight it all came together. It was very impressive."
With the score 1-1 after two, Mifflin County put the game on ice with an eight-run third. Hunter Walker hit a double and a single to drive in two runs, Jake Larson plated two with a double, while Max Remy, Heath Hidlay and Kyle Bodtorf each had RBI knocks.
When the dust settled, Mifflin County had a commanding 9-1 advantage.
"We just exploded in that third inning. It was almost contagious. Jake Larson had a real big hit in the third, knocking in two runs. Shane Connahan had a big hit in the fourth inning. We rely on power up and down the lineup," Howard said. "Hunter (Walker) has done it all year. He's sort of the silent guy. He isn't one of these big guys like Shane (Connahan) and (Drew) Hannon and John Michael Maclay are, but he finds a way to get on and tonight he had a real nice game. We don't have a weakness in our lineup. I feel that Kyle Botdorf, who hits consistently in the nine spot, nobody hits the ball harder than he does. He came through tonight with a big base hit."
Walker had a game leadoff hitters dream about, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs.
"Everyone was swinging the bats very well tonight. It was an all-around, well-played game for us," Walker said. "We were trying to see what (Philipsburg pitcher Matt Hample) had, what he was throwing. The second time around we were ready for him. We are always confident when we play but we never take anyone lightly. We haven't been hitting as well lately so this was good for us."
Mifflin County delivered the knockout blow to a punch-drunk Philipsburg team with a seven-run fourth inning.
Walker and Lucas McKay each had two-run doubles, while Connahan and Hannon had RBI base hits. McKay led off the inning with a triple as Post 287 batted around for the second consecutive frame.
Ty Bodtorf picked up the victory for Mifflin County (20-8), going five innings and allowing only four hits, all singles, and one run. He walked three and struck out five. Hample suffered the loss for Philipsburg.
"Give Mifflin County credit. They came out ready to play. They were hitting the cover off the ball and there isn't much you can do when a team is hitting like that," Philipsburg manager Jim Rice said. "It's a double elimination tournament so we have to come out tomorrow and give it everything we've got to stay alive."
Walker led the way with three hits, while McKay collected two. Mifflin County finished with 12 hits total.
"We have so many good athletes we can't get enough playing time for them and that's a good problem to have," Howard said. "Coach (Chuck) Curry and I have made this comment many times this year: We really enjoy coming to the ballpark. This is an extraordinary group and we love being a part of it.
"We are cautiously optimistic about the playoffs. I said after the Clarence game that we couldn't have ended the regular season in better shape than we did and I thought tonight was proof of that," he said. "We came ready to play and played a complete game. We are battle tested and confident."
Danville 4, Juniata 3 (10 inn.)
DANVILLE - Blaise Roush pitched 10 solid innings and took a lead into the bottom of the seventh, but Danville forced extra innings and went on to top Juniata County 4-3 in a 10-inning Susquehanna Valley American Legion League second-round playoff game Friday night in Danville.
The loss sends Post 298 to the consolation bracket.
Roush had two strikes on four different Danville batters in the bottom of the seventh, but four straight walks led to Danville tying the game and forcing extras.
Juniata couldn't score in the extra frames but held Danville scoreless as well until the 10th when Danville struck again with two outs. Colton Riley ripped a walk-off gapper to finally end it.
In addition to his rare 10-inning pitching performance, Roush impacted the game from the plate by smacking an RBI double in a two-run first inning that staked Juniata to an early lead.
"Blaise Roush pitched a really good game," Juniata County manager Mark Mingle said. "He didn't wanna come out, and he was throwing real good, so we just kept him in there the whole time."
Despite the loss, Mingle likes what he saw from his team Friday night.
"We really dug our heels in there tonight and almost got it done," he said. "We played a real solid defensive game. I thought we played well."
Zach Brent earned the win on the mound for Danville.
Post 298 is back in playoff action tonight at Line Mountain at 5:30 pm.