LEWISTOWN - The battle between the top two seeds in the Central Penn League American Legion baseball playoffs featured two unbeatens - Mifflin County and Beech Creek - looking to go 3-0 and gain a decided advantage in the double-elimination tournament.
When the dust settled, Beech Creek came away with the 7-2 victory Sunday afternoon at Rec Park, with pitcher Chuck Probst stealing the show.
Probst handcuffed Post 287 for six innings, giving up only three hits and striking out five, to pick up the victory and hand Mifflin County its first loss in the playoffs.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Beech Creek base runner Clayton Butler (6) collides with Mifflin County catcher John Michael Maclay Sunday afternoon in Lewistown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
"He (Probst) pitched a great game. Beech Creek resembles us athletically and they hit the ball really well," Mifflin County manager Bernie Howard said. "They certainly did that today and we didn't due in large part to Probst's effectiveness. He's a quality pitcher and they are a quality team. Today wasn't our day. We'll be back tomorrow.
"Probst took the air out of our sails a little bit but I thought we played well and I thought we played hard. We surely came ready to play and we did play well. They just played a little better."
While Mifflin County struggled at the plate, Beech Creek pounded out 14 hits against losing pitcher Ross Torquato and reliever John Michael Maclay.
"Chuck threw well. He only gave up three hits today and when he got tired they had two of them in the sixth," Beech Creek manager Gaylord Hanley said. "We hit the ball well and we hit it hard. Overall, we played a nice ball game. We hit the ball, played good defense and played basic, fundamental baseball. I'm feeling good right now the way our boys are playing.
"We beat DuBois on Saturday and they were the number three seed and we beat Mifflin County today and they are the number one seed. Now they both have to battle back and come get us. We are in a good position right now."
Beech Creek opened up the floodgates with a four-run third inning when Cole Hanley led off with a double, Probst singled and an error plated Hanley for the 1-0 lead. Ken Heverly followed with an RBI triple and Clayton Butler brought home Heverly with a double to deep center. Butler later scored on a wild pitch, making it 4-0.
Post 287 answered with a run in the bottom of the third when Max Remy walked and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Lucas McKay brought Remy home with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Any chance of a comeback ended with the solid pitching of Probst and a three-run fifth inning by the visitors.
Probst led off the inning with a walk, Heverly singled and McGill plated both with a base hit to center. Bryce Hanley brought in McGill with an RBI double giving Beech Creek a commanding 7-1 lead.
Mifflin County scored its final run in the bottom of the sixth when McKay tripled and scored on a Shane Connahan sac fly.
"We hit the ball hard but it was right at them. We had a couple of drives where a put here, a put there could have been big, but it just didn't happen today," Howard said. "They hit well and capitalized on their hits, especially in the third when they had a four-run rally. It was tough to overcome that.
"We split the two regular season games with them and knew they would be a formidable opponent. This is just one game and we have to get right back in it. That's the way this playoff format is - you just keep playing until one team is left standing. Fortunately, we will be back at home again on Monday for the 6 p.m. start. We'll be back and we'll be ready."
Heverly paced Beech Creek with three hits, while Cole Hanley, Probst, Butler and McGill collected two hits each.
Mifflin County (21-9) hosts DuBois Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Mifflin County 8, Bellefonte 0
LEWISTOWN - Top seeded Post 287, behind the dominant pitching of Heath Hidlay, cruised to an 8-0 win over No. 5 Bellefonte Saturday in a CPL tournament semifinal. In his complete game shutout, Hidlay allowed just two singles and walked only one batter. He struck-out four and allowed only one Bellefonte batter to reach third base.
Mifflin County struck early with a pair of first-inning runs on consecutive two-out singles by Shane Connahan and John Michael Maclay. In the home half of the second Post 287 added three more. The big blow was a two-out base hit by Lucas McKay that knocked in two runs. Hidlay helped his own cause with an RBI hit in the bottom of the third.
Two Bandit errors set the table for a Max Remy two-run double and increased the lead to 8-0 after six innings.
McKay paced Post 287 with two hits and a pair of RBIs. Hidlay was supported with several fine defensive plays, including two by Drew Hannon at first.
Line Mountain 8, Juniata County 7
MANDATA - In a battle essentially pitting two Tri-Valley League foes, Line Mountain became the second team in the bracket to stave off a threat from a plucky Juniata County, ending Post 298's season by an 8-7 margin in a Susquehanna Valley American Legion League baseball playoff game Saturday.
Juniata, the eighth seed coming in, showed surprising stamina, dropping a pair of one-run games - one in extra innings - after shocking the league's top regular-season team in the opener.
In the consolation bracket, Line Mountain scored a run in the first inning and rode that to the fifth, where Juniata County plated seven runs to go ahead on the scoreboard. But the home team came right back in the bottom of the frame, tying the score after five and scoring the winning run in the sixth.
Juniata County completes its inaugural season in the SVALL with a 4-15 overall record.