Rams stretch lead over two-week span

LEWISTOWN – Mifflin County started off with a 2-1 deficit Tuesday when the Huskies resumed their April 10 rain-suspended game with Central Dauphin, but by the end of the game that one-run difference was preferable to the 8-3 final.

The Commonwealth Division game picked up in the bottom of the second with no outs and nobody on, and although Mifflin County had a few standout moments, overall it was an off evening for Huskies. Contrast this to the Rams’ potent day at the plate, and the game resulted in Mifflin County’s second loss of the season.

Mifflin County’s run in the first portion of the game was scored on a solo home run by Mara Rhodes, and things got started Tuesday when in the top of the third Central Dauphin third baseman Katie Foran showed that the Rams could go deep, too.

Taking the first pitcher she saw from Taylor Boyer, Foran hit a steel rope way over left fielder Tara Kibe.

Kibe never had a chance to catch the deep fly, and Foran easily rounded the bases in addition to bringing home teammate Rene Foster – who had lead off the inning with a single – as Central Dauphin took off with the 4-2 lead.

Mifflin County had previously tied it at 2-2 in the bottom of the second when Jordan Shirey, who had reached on a single then advanced to third on a bunt from Maggie Wray, scored on a wild pitch from Central Dauphin pitcher Amanda Homrighausen.

In the top of the fourth, the Rams padded their lead when RBIs from Alex Cunkle and Mary Nell Smith plus a few miscues on the Huskies’ part resulted in the 8-2 lead.

Alexis Hess singled and Macy Koontz notched a double to start the fourth for Central Dauphin, then Cunkle knocked a single to left field to bring home Hess before Smith singled to center field to bring home Koontz.

The two earned runs were nothing the Huskies could have stopped, but Cunkle and Smith both reached extra bases on their hits when throws from the outfield that should have been cut before reaching home put the two runners on second and third. And this hurt the Huskies, too, as before the inning was over Cunkle stole home on a wild pitch and an error on the attempt play on Cunkle also allowed Smith to steal home for the 8-4 lead.

Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy thought frustration and the resulting lack of focus was responsible for the Huskies’ weak defensive inning.

“In the years that I’ve been coaching, I think these kids start thinking about win-loss and not focusing on the moment,” he said. McCurdy was also quick to point out, however, that the Huskies had several strong moments, including Rhodes’ three-hit performance – including the April 10 home run – a nice day at the plate from Jordan Shirey and Rachel Zimmerman’s hitless two innings to close out the evening on the mound.

Mifflin County’s third run was scored in the bottom of the sixth when Boyer – who had reached on a single to center and then advanced to second on a bunt from Macie Lucas – came home on a line drive to center field from Shirey.

With two outs, Mifflin County was mounting its best attempt at a comeback with Shirey on first and the score at 8-3, but Central Dauphin left fielder Smith put an end to that when she made a beautiful catch to rob Wray of what would have brought Shirey home on a multiple base hit.

For the most part, Homrighausen kept the Mifflin County batters off balance, as the Huskies got under the pitch time and again for harmless pop flies.

“You can’t pull an outside pitch. When you get your hands started and then you all the sudden understand that that ball’s on the outside, you decelerate your bat head and that’s what you get. You get a lot of pop ups,” McCurdy explained.

Compared to what Mifflin County has seen so far this season, McCurdy thought Homrighausen was in the upper half of the conference’s pitchers, explaining that she might not have dominated with speed, but was a very smart with her placement.

“She knew where to throw it where we weren’t hitting it, and that makes a pitcher,” he said.

Mifflin County starting pitcher Boyer finished the game with four strikeouts, including one she earned on April 10. The three runs scored on that date included Mifflin County’s one with Rhodes’ home run, and Central Dauphin’s two on a two RBI double from Alli Culp to bring home Hess and Rosa Veliky.

The Huskies (6-2, 6-2) have completed the first cycle, and will get right into the second cycle today when they host Cumberland Valley. In the teams’ first meeting, Cumberland Valley dropped the Huskies 9-1, and McCurdy sees the important of today’ game, explaining that the game is “going to be a measuring stick to show how we improved as a team.”