Walks turn into key run in Rams’ win

LEWISTOWN – After Mifflin County short stop Heath Hidlay tracked two Central Dauphin bloopers back to shallow center field for outs one and two in the 2-2 extra-innings game, he had a chance to record the third out of the inning from the mound when he took over for teammate Lucas McKay mid-way through the top of the 11th.

However, the Rams’ Jake Artz had a different idea.

After McKay walked two batters ahead of Artz then threw a first-pitch ball to the center fielder, Hidlay took over on the mount and worked the count to 1-2. But, on the fourth pitch he saw, Artz hit an RBI line drive up the middle to score teammate Blake Lazor for the final 3-2 lead.

In the bottom of the 11th Mifflin County’s Isaac Strohecker did reach on a single then advance on a sacrifice bunt from Isaiah Kearns, but Tuesday’s game came to an end when a flyout to third from Drew Hannon and a harmless roller to the pitcher from Cy Treaster brought the three-hours long contest to a close.

“It stings whenever you’re fighting back like that in the seventh inning,” Mifflin County coach Travis Zook said, explaining that the Huskies had recovered from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the seventh to take the game into extra innings. “But like I told them, we can’t wait till the seventh inning when they score two runs to score (our) two.”

The Huskies’ two seventh-inning runs came about when Cy Treaster flew out to right field, but Jacob Larson scored from second on an overthrown cutoff, then teammate Luke Amspacker advanced to third and an overthrow attempt to get him out at the bag resulted in the 2-2 tie.

Outside of those two runs, neither of which were earned, Zook expressed frustration over the Huskies’ inability to string together the hits.

“I’m very pleased with the pitching all the way up. And the relief, they all did a great job. Our hitters have got to do better,” Zook said, whose Huskies combined for six hits in the 11-inning game.

But if Zook was correct in identifying the Huskies’ batting as part of the problem, he was equally as accurate in his analysis of the pitching.

For the first six innings of the game, it was a study in contrasts as Mifflin County’s tall lefty Seth Wagner battled it out against Central Dauphin’s much shorter right hander, Alek Bittinger.

Wagner relied primarily on his fastball and the occasional off-speed pitch to record 12 stikeouts in his six-inning effort while Bittinger mixed in many breaking pitches with his fastball to force Mifflin County to leave eight runners stranded in the nine innings he pitched.

And, while Bittinger did his work from the mound, his teammates came through on the offense, scoring one run in the top of the fifth off a Mifflin County error and another on an RBI single from Tim Hobbs to bring teammate T.J. Osborne home from second.

After the two Central Dauphin runs, Zook went out to the mound to speak with Wagner, and whatever he said must have worked as the southpaw threw five straight strikeouts through the rest of the fifth and the sixth before he was replaced by Logan Swineford in the top of the seventh.

Through the next five innings, Swineford, Rodney Patterson, McKay and Hidlay all pitched for the Huskies, working together to hold Central Dauphin scoreless until the top of the 11th.

“Defensively the pitchers did fantastic. They gave up three runs all game – you can’t ask for much more than that,” Zook said.

After his nine innings of work, Bittinger came out of the game and teammate Nate Dickey allowed just one Mifflin County hit in the 10th and 11th to record the win.

“We had a great outing there from Seth Wagner – our pitchers threw well. I mean, we gave up one earned run there in the six innings he threw, and we don’t score any runs for him. Their pitcher threw nine innings, and we had (six) hits. Whatever it was, it’s not enough. We’re a better hitting team than that, and we’ve got to do better,” Zook said.

Mifflin County’s JV team won its game, 7-6. The varsity team (7-7, 6-7) gets back in action today when it hosts Carlisle.