MILL HALL – It could have been a battle talked about for years.
Central Mountain’s all-everything Von Walker was at bat against Mifflin County’s pitcher Seth Wagner, a senior left-hander with an 85-plus mph fastball – who has already verbally committed to Penn State and is being looked at by several Major League teams – with two outs and two runners on with the Wildcats down 5-4 in the seventh inning.
It was power against power, but it came out a little flat.
The inning had begun to build when with one out, Drew Nyman lined out to center field before Jonny Wise followed with a single. Luke Wise followed with a fly out to third base before Cayden Stover stroked a two-out single, sending the go-ahead run to third base. That’s when Huskies’ manager Travis Zook brought Rodney Patterson out of the game after 6 2/3 innings and brought in the 6’7″ Wagner to face Walker.
The large left-hander sent the first pitch into the dirt near home plate, going to the backstop, sending Stover to third base.
An intentional walk quickly followed to Walker, loading the bases, before Kyle McGregor struck out to give the Huskies a 5-4 win at Mill Hall Community Field Monday.
“We weren’t going to (walk him) until we had a passed ball and had guys on second and third,” Zook said. “I’m just more comfortable having him on and looking at what the next batter had done, with force outs. I was willing to take that challenge. But, with the open base…I was thinking about walking him to have the bases loaded, but, with one pitch from Seth being down in the dirt, I just figured, why play with fire. Let’s get him on there and let the rest of the team beat us.”
Wildcats’ manager Mike Kramer agreed.
“Once they moved up into scoring position and they thought there was a base open… It would have been a nice battle to see,” he said. “Von was in a zone and I felt confident he was going to come through. They just chose to go a different route.”
Previously in the game, Mifflin County had scratched out the 5-4 lead in the seventh with a lead-off single by Gage Reeseman, who then stole second before being driven home with a one-out single by Isaac Strohecher.
In the top of the first the Huskies forged to a 2-0 lead, with a lead-off error at third base. After a strikeout, Evan Pupo and Drew Hannon followed with back-to-back singles. Then, with a throwing error from right field lead-off batter Heath Hidlay and Pupo scored. Stover followed with two strikeouts to close out the inning.
Following a 1-2-3 bottom of the first, the Huskies used a one-out walk to Aaron Michaels and an RBI single by Reeseman to make it 3-0 Huskies in the middle of the second.
After no runs in the second and third, the Wildcats strung out several straight hits to lead 4-3.
Walker started the inning with a triple. After McGregor struck out, designated hitter Dylan Kerstetter was hit by a pitch and stole second before a two-RBI single by Zach Skrtich. Nyman then drove Skrtich home with a double, and Wise followed with a single to give the ‘Cats their lead.
The Huskies tied the score at 4 in the fifth inning with a one-out walk to Strohecher and a two-out single by Hannon.
Kramer was pleased his team was able to come back and tie the score, but noted his players still need to have good quality at bats.
“We were hitting good pitches, laying off the tough ones. I think we were putting ourselves into holes,” he said. “Maybe we were swinging at some bad ones and not putting the ball into play.
“But, when we came back, that was good momentum-wise, but we were just not able to hold it.”
He said he believed Stover pitched well enough to win.
“He limited the walks, forced them to put it into play and he was making quality pitches,” Kramer said. “We should have gotten this ballgame. There were some things that allowed them to get extra bases, not hitting the cut. When runners are in scoring position, we have to put the ball into play, and we sometimes missed the signs. Just little things that can make a big difference in the end,” he said.
Zook was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We started out good, hitting the ball, putting the ball in play, and taking advantage of an error in the first inning to get some runs on early,” he said. “We’ve had a little trouble with that. Any coach Kramer coached team is going to battle back so, three runs, four runs, five runs… it’s never going to be enough. We tried to tack on as many runs and, as expected, coach Kramer’s team came right back into it and we were able to manufacture a run… in the top of the seventh.”
Zook also gave his accolades to Patterson, who ended up giving up four runs on nine hits and two strikeouts.
“He had 46 pitches through six innings, which I think is fantastic. They were starting to get his timing down a little bit. He has a nice changeup to balance out his fastball,” he said. “He works very efficiently… he struggled a little in the third, but we felt the timing wasn’t there for his advantage.”
The Wildcats drop to 2-5 on the year, while the Huskies are now 4-5 and get back in action today when they host Red Land.