15s take first game, 13-4

WILLIAMSPORT – Keystone had never seen Mifflin County in all-star play before Thursday.

After the opening game for the locals – on the second day of the 15-year-old state tournament – the Babe Ruth league serving the Lock Haven area would probably just as soon never see Mifflin County again.

A seven-run third propelled Mifflin County to its first win in the tournament, 13-4.

Mifflin County went into the pivotal frame with a 4-0 lead, then flirted with the 10-run rule the rest of the way before settling for a seven-inning win.

In the third, a leadoff walk by Alex Hackenberg and two more issued to Jared Soles and Tyler Powell wrapped around a Lucas Harshbarger base hit started the onslaught, as the first four batters to the plate came back to see it again.

Graham Rhoades doubled to plate two; Harshbarger’s single and another by Aaron Sharp were good for runs, as was an Andrew Larson fielder’s choice.

Mifflin County’s offense had been working Keystone starter Conner Bauman from the outset. In the opening frame, the first to reach base was Zach Hostetler on a walk, followed by a Hackenberg base hit that scored the first run and a Harshbarger double that put another across. Harshbarger scored when Soles singled to make it 3-0 Mifflin County in the opening half.

In the third, Nate Earnest drew a walk that became the fourth run on a sacrifice fly by Sharp, then the third gave the locals an 11-0 lead.

“The offensive output has continually gotten better for us,” Mifflin County manager Bernie Howard said. “I like the way we started out today, and we got contributions throughout the lineup.”

Keystone at that point had gone through its lineup once, with eight of the nine batters victim by strikeout to Hackenberg. But his no-hitter came to an end in the fourth, as did the 10-run margin that could have given Mifflin County an early out.

An error put Keystone’s first runner on the base paths; a walk made it two bases for the District 8 representative. Then the hitting came – Josh King singled and Hart Bottorf doubled to put three runs on the board. Another error – Mifflin County committed three in the inning – allowed the fourth run to cross.

“We certainly got off to a good start. I thought Alex Hackenberg couldn’t have looked much sharper,” Howard said, at least until the fourth. “I do think that the heat had something to do with it. He got a little tired.”

Keystone likely would have added a couple more and tightened the gap, but a couple of base running errors took away opportunities to load the bags. Howard gave that to his catcher.

“I haven’t seen anybody handle catching duties better than Nate Earnest, and he certainly showed that again today,” Howard said. “He’s certainly our quarterback. There were two plays there in that inning where he took them out of the game.”

The game would have ended after five, but Mifflin County needed two runs and couldn’t get them, despite having the bases loaded. That came with two outs; Andrew Bernstein, who walked as a pinch hitter for Earnest, was plated by the pitcher when Harshbarger wore one.

Another opportunity to go early came in the sixth, when Earnest and Larson both singled, again with two outs. Steals and fielding mistakes helped Earnest cross on Larson’s hit, but the 14th run, which would have ended the game on the spot, was stranded on third.

Hackenberg and Harshbarger each had multiple hits for Mifflin County; Harshbarger and Rhoades each doubled. Harshbarger drove in three runs; Sharp, Hackenberg, Rhoades and Larson plated two each. Hostetler and Soles also had RBIs.

Three Keystone pitchers failed to record a single strikeout.

Mifflin County plays Broomall/Newtown at 1 p.m. today in the pool play portion of the tournament.