Young MC hurler outlasts Trojans

LEWISTOWN – Coaches pacing in the dugout with three outs to go in a decisive ball game is something that can be seen throughout the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division – and for Mifflin County coach Travis Zook, it was no different Tuesday.

Leading by a run with his young right-handed phenom Isaiah Kearns on the hill, Zook and his team looked on as the freshman battled his way through five Chambersburg hitters in the seventh to seal the Huskies’ seventh victory of the season and sixth in the Commonwealth Division, a 4-3 victory.

“I was pacing,” Zook said. “I guess there was no reason, though.”

But with a solid hitting squad like Chambersburg camped in the visitor’s dugout and poised to make a comeback, anything is possible. Kearns silenced the doubters and the Trojans simultaneously, making his way through 101 pitches and going the distance in his second varsity appearance. Kearns struck out four and walked two while hitting another batter. He allowed just five hits and two earned runs over that span.

Zook said he and his staff discussed the possibility of making a change due to Kearns’ pitch count but when the coaches asked the righty, he made it clear that the game was his.

“He said there in the seventh inning that he wanted it,” Zook said.

With that, the staff put its trust in Kearns, who got it done.

After setting the tone in the top of the first by inducing three-straight groundouts, Kearns and his teammates headed to the home half of the inning looking to take an early lead – and the Huskies did.

Leadoff man Gage Reesman smashed an 0-1 fastball up the middle and thanks to a walk and error, the Huskies had the bases full with nobody out and designated hitter Hayden Snook headed to the plate. Unfortunately for the DH, Chambersburg’s Tyghe Bowers settled in and induced a pop-out to the shortstop.

The Huskies’ third baseman, Isaac Strohecker, picked his teammate up though and smashed a two-run single up the middle, giving his squad the lead. Mifflin County’s first baseman Drew Hannon’s walk filled the bases again and catcher Cy Treaster hit a sacrifice fly to right field that would give the Huskies a 3-0 advantage – but the Huskies would not score again until the fifth inning, which Zook said is all derived from his team’s energy level and has been an overarching theme for the 2013 Huskies and Zook-coached squads.

“It has everything to do with energy,” he said. “We score three runs then all of the sudden, we go into chill mode – we have to be a team that whenever we get a lead like that, we’re closing the deal and packing three more on and knocking the (opposing) team out of the game.”

Kearns kept the Trojans at bay, cruising until the top of the fourth when he walked the first two hitters of the inning then hit the third to fill the bases. The right hander nearly escaped the inning unscathed after getting a groundball that forced a runner out at home and then a strikeout, but a big two-out hit by Chambersburg’s catcher Nick Graham plated two runs. Kearns did a solid job at managing the damage though and struck out the Trojans’ nine hitter, stranding two base runners.

Chambersburg came out firing again in the fifth and got its leadoff man on. A sacrifice bunt moved to second and he eventually scored on a single by Andrew Shreiner. Zook spoke to the Mid-Penn teams’ ability to come back.

“These teams here, they’re not going to get discouraged,” he said. “That’s the way all teams in the Mid-Penn are.”

And the newest member of the Mid-Penn didn’t get discouraged either.

Just like you draw it up, the Huskies’ leadoff man in the fifth, Lucas McKay, reached on a single and was sacrificed to second by Snook, giving Strohecker the RBI opportunity and the chance to give his team the lead. Strohecker came through with a one-out line drive single, giving the third baseman his third single and the eventual game-winning RBI.

After re-taking the lead in the fifth, Kearns retired the Trojans in order in the sixth and earned a much needed shutdown inning. Zook related that with a 7-6 overall record and even .500 mark in the Commonwealth Division, he is pleased with his team’s effort thus far.

“I have been really happy – especially with our pitching,” he said, providing high praise for Kearns, Seth Wagner, Rodney Patterson and Heath Hidlay.

“There have been a couple of letdowns, losing a couple of one-run games here and there but I’m happy with the way we’ve been playing,” Zook added.

Mifflin County looks to notch another Mid-Penn Commonwealth win today against Central Dauphin at Highland Park.