BEECH CREEK - Any way you slice it, the American Legion Senior Division championship game of the Central Penn League was a classic.
With pitching dominating things on both sides of the field, Beech Creek made single runs in the second and fourth innings stand up for a hard-fought 2-1 win before a large crowd at Beech Creek Community Park.
With the win comes the championship of the CPL along with a trip to the regional tournament.
Sentinel photo by CONRAD?SHANK
Mifflin County pitcher Heath Hidlay delivers a pitch in the fourth inning of the Central Penn League championship series against Beech Creek at Beech Creek Community Park on Wednesday night. Hidlay suffered the loss in a tough 2-1 defeat.
"This was our fourth time we played them and that (Mifflin County) is a class act of boys and a good baseball team over there," Beech Creek manager Gaylord Hanley said. "It was just a good, hard fought baseball game between two outstanding teams."
Mifflin County manager Bernie Howard agreed with Hanley.
"Last night 3-2 and 2-1 tonight, that is baseball," Howard said. "I have to applaud both teams and the pitching effort on both sides was simply outstanding. I don't know if I saw a better game this year and referring to one of those cliches' is that you hate to see anybody lose in a game like this one and I definitely hated to see us lose. It was just a great game."
Handling the pitching chores for the Crickets was Kenny Heverly as the righthander scattered three hits, allowing the one earned run in the third inning. For the game, Heverly struck out nine MC batters while walking three.
"Kenny pitched as well tonight as he did against DuBois," said Hanley. "The only difference was that it wasn't as hot tonight as it was against them. He beat a good DuBois team twice this year and tonight he just beat an outstanding Mifflin County team for the second time in a week-and-a-half. He just stepped up the plate, rose to the occasion and did an outstanding job."
While Heverly came out on the winning side of the game, Mifflin County pitcher Heath Hidlay was also solid on the bump while taking the hard luck loss. The righthander allowed the Crickets a half dozen hits, striking out two and walking a pair.
"I just tried to keep their batters off balance because I knew they were a good hitting team," said Heverly. "The main thing I wanted to do was throw strikes and work ahead. The guys always play good defense behind me and I couldn't ask for a better team."
Although his primary task was on the slab, Heverly once again showed his ability to use the stick as he finished with a double and triple while scoring his team's first run.
Beech Creek drew first blood in the second when Heverly led off with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Clayton Butler.
Mifflin County tied the game with its only run in the third when Jacob Larson fisted a double to right field and one out later, scored on an RBI groundout off the bat of Max Remy.
The Crickets scored what turned out to be the winning run in the fourth before Hidlay and Heverly took over complete control of the game.
In the BC fourth, Chuck Probst smacked a one-out double to left and scored when Heverly chased him across the dish with an RBI single to left.
"I love it," said Heverly when asked how he felt about helping the team with the bat. "When I don't hit I get down a little bit because I like to help myself and the team to get a win."
There are usually anxious moments in most games, and for the Crickets, their's came in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with one out, but didn't score as Hidlay rose to the occasion to record a strikeout and a fly ball to right to end the threat.
"When we had the bases loaded with one out and didn't score, I thought, man we could be in trouble," said Hanley. "That was a momentum shift and fortunately for us, it didn't come back to haunt us."
Howard was quick to point out that getting out of that jam without a run being scored was huge for his team.
"That was huge for us," said Howard. "We said all year long that we are blessed with incredible athletes and tonight it showed. I thought we played extremely well against undoubtedly the best team in the league. The Heverly boy pitched a wonderful game and I thought he was matched inning for inning with Heath Hidlay. Hidlay has pitched some wonderful games in his legion career and I would have to rank this one right up there at the top. He just did a splendid job and it is pretty tough to find fault with anyone in this one."
As for the key to the Crickets success to this point, Hanley was quick to point out that success comes as a result of playing as a team.
"At our first workout at the beginning of the season, I told them there are no 'Is" on this team," he said. "We play as a team, we win as a team and we lose as a team. If somebody has a bad at-bat, you can't take it out on the field and if somebody misses a ball in the field, you can't bring it in here to the plate with you. These boys don't do that because they realize what happened before is water over the dam and there is nothing you can do about it."
When asked to look back at the season, a big smile came over Howard's face.
"We played 32 games in fifty some days," Howard said. "They kids battled all the way and I said to coach (Chuck) Curry if you look at the 32 games we played, there wasn't an easy game in there. This is quality baseball at this level and it was a pleasure for us to be coaching such a gifted group of athletes."
Prior to the game, Hanley gathered his troops together and gave them a Yogi Berra special when he told them, "boys, last year we knocked on the door and tonight we are going to knock it down," and his team responded by punching its ticket to the regional tournament.