Unlikely turnaround shocks Huskies

LEWISTOWN – An offensive explosion turned into a defensive implosion for the Mifflin County Huskies Wednesday as the team surrendered 10 runs in the final frame to Mid-Penn Commonwealth foe State College and fell 17-8.

If you’re looking for a culprit, you might want to consider leadoff walks.

The percentage that a batter who draws a leadoff walk scores is dangerously high – just ask Mifflin County’s coach Travis Zook. With a one-run lead in the seventh inning, Mifflin County pitcher Logan Swineford walked State College’s cleanup hitter, who can burn on the bases and already hit a roundtripper earlier in the game. Swineford foiled a sacrifice bunt attempt, inducing a pop up that was snagged by catcher Cy Treaster, inching the Huskies to within two outs of an important win versus the longtime foe.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

Swineford has succeeded in pressure situations before but the Little Lions nearly cycled through their oder twice and collected 10 runs on five hits and four errors before the Huskies would record the final out of the frame.

Zook noted that Swineford’s stuff complements Seth Wagner’s pitching style well, which often has led to success.

The back-breaking inning spelled the end for Mifflin County as the air was taken out of the squad – staring up at a nine-run deficit.

The four runs on two hits and two errors given up by the Huskies in the first inning might have made spectators feel like it would be a long day for the home team but starting pitcher Seth Wagner settled in and saw only three more runs cross home plate through the remainder of his five and two-thirds innings of work.

“That shows you a lot about him (Wagner),” Mifflin County coach Travis Zook said. “We boot the ball, he walks a guy but he comes back and settles in.”

Undeterred by the four-run hole in the first, the Huskies brought their sticks and answered with four runs of their own in the home half of the inning. Isaac Strohecher got things started with a double to left center field and with two hits, it looked like he would be stranded at second. Lucas McKay grounded to second and an error allowed him to reach, advancing Strohecher to third with Wagner coming to the plate. The lanky lefty helped his cause by blasting a two-run double to the right center field gap.

The Huskies tied the game on an error and another hit. In all, the team sent eight hitters to the plate – yielding five hits and inducing one State College error to knot the game heading to the second. Zook noted that run-production generally coincides with his team’s intensity and energy level.

“It seems like our ability to hit the ball and score runs is directly related to the energy in the dugout,” he said. “It has everything to do with our attitude.”

After a shutdown second inning, the Huskies looked to take the lead in the bottom of the stanza. After blasting a double to lead off the inning, Gage Reeseman was plated by Cy Treaster’s single, giving the Huskies a lead the team would cling to for the next four innings. The squad tacked on two more in the frame before being retired by two consecutive strikeouts.

The Little Lions inched their way back into the game in each of the next three innings, plating one per stanza to tie the game at seven. The Husky offense looked stagnant largely due to Little Lion reliever Dan Fry. The left-hander struck out 10 Mifflin County hitters on the day.

“We didn’t put them offensively – Fry did a great job at keeping us off balance,” Zook said. “He had a good curveball and we just had too many guys falling behind in counts.”

The tie would be shortlived, though, as the Huskies came roaring back.

With the game tied at seven and the bases full in the bottom of the fifth, the Huskies botched a squeeze attempt on a tough curveball – and fortunately for Mifflin County, so did State College’s catcher – allowing McKay to score the go-ahead run heading to the top of the sixth. After retiring two hitters, starting pitcher Wagner yielded to reliever Logan Swineford, who came in and did his job, throwing three pitches and recording a strikeout to end the Little Lion threat. Wagner tossed nearly 120 pitches while striking out six and allowing two earned – the left-hander received a no-decision for his efforts.

“He (Wagner) did more than enough to win,” Zook said. “The offense did its part but the defense let us down today.”

Mifflin County looked to add some insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth and the team had an opportunity as Strohecker and McKay each drew walks but a strikeout ended the frame and the Huskies sped toward the top of the seventh with a one-run lead that quickly disappeared.

Mifflin County (3-5) hosts Red Land Friday at 4 p.m.