Indians close out with a win
MIFFLINTOWN – After nearly knocking off the Tri-Valley League champion Thursday, Juniata took the field one more time Friday against Newport. The Indians tallied 16 hits and knocked off the Buffaloes 14-11 in their season finale.
The contest saw 30 total hits and 11 errors between the teams but for Juniata, the infamous third out and errors would not come back to haunt them.
Senior starting pitcher Coleby Hambright took the mound and got knocked around for two runs in the opening half of the first, but the righty didn’t get discouraged and he dug in and ultimately went the distance for the home team. Coach Nick Beward spoke to the toughness of his senior pitcher.
“There was no way I was pulling him out of that game,” he said. “I said it’s yours to win or lose and I had confidence he was going to come through and get the W.”
Hambright battled the entire day, persevering through six total Juniata errors by pounding the zone and letting his defense work a defense that, at times, has been up and down all season long. The Indians minimized the damage, though, and after allowing five third-inning runs to give the Buffaloes a 7-5 advantage, the team locked back in with the encouragement of Beward and teammates.
“Sometimes they don’t like when I stay on top of them and get really vocal about being aggressive at bat,” Beward said. “Sometimes you have to be vocal with them because they’ll lay back and watch too many pitches.”
The Indian offense didn’t spend much time window shopping during the offensive explosion. Juniata sent eight hitters to the plate in the first inning and no fewer than five to the batter’s box in any subsequent frame. The squad put a quarter in the merry-go-round in the fourth and batted around.
The most important number for the Indians might have been zero – the total number of times the team struck out. That was a significant difference from previous games this season.
The three-run first inning was initiated by Chad Eberle, who smacked a single and then moved to second on a walk to Chantz Swartz. The four hitter, Dakhota Sweitzer, who Beward said had been slumping, found his swing again and roped a single that would score both Eberle and Swartz. Beward expressed how pleased he was for Sweitzer.
“(Sweitzer) got his swing back – he started really well at the beginning of the year then he lost it,” Beward said. “He went through one of the biggest slumps I’ve ever seen a high school kid go through.”
Beward noted that Sweitzer got back into a groove toward the end of the season. Good news for the Indians as the righty has accounted for many of the team’s RBIs this season. Sweitzer belted three hits on the day, including a double that nearly broke the threshold of the construction fence. He also collected two RBIs on the day.
Sweitzer wasn’t the only Juniata hitter who got it going in the team’s last hurrah of the 2013 campaign. Freshman Dylan Loudenslager also chipped in three hits and plated two runs while playing a steady first base. All but one Juniata starter tallied a hit in the contest and the team applied pressure to the Buffaloes inning after inning, forcing the visitors into committing five errors.
The Indians didn’t play error-free baseball either – but many of those errant plays came on throwing miscues but the Indians picked it nicely off the bat.
“Right at the end they focused and stayed at it,” Beward said. “They did commit some errors here and there that could have cost us but our senior found a way to work us out of it – he was a vocal leader for too tonight.”
Sweitzer held the hot corner down and Ty Treaster held his own at shortstop while the outfielders caught nearly everything in the air, excluding one that fell in behind the second baseman due to a lack of communication. Hambright remained steady on the mound despite the miscues behind him and pitched his game, mixing in an offspeed pitch now and then to keep the Buffaloes off balance. Hambright helped his own cause at the plate as well, going 2-for-3 and tallying an RBI.
“Offensively (Coleby) helped himself out,” Beward said. “That was the best hitting game that I’ve seen from him in his career.”
Say what you want about the Indians’ final win-loss record, Beward will attest to the fact that the young team has played hard all year and he hopes it will carry over to next year.
“They’re not bowing down to teams,” Beward said of his young team that nearly knocked off TVL champion Halifax Thursday. “We played a really solid team and we gave it all we had right till the end.”
“It wasn’t pretty at times but you know what a win is a win and it’s exactly what you want on your final game with your senior on the mound, it’s a good way to go out.”
Juniata finishes its season 5-15 and 5-11 in the TVL.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys the way they finished things out and these younger guys got a good taste of what it’s like to be successful right at the end of the season,” Beward added.