Historic win propels MC 15s to states

MILROY – It was hot. The game was intense. A lot was on the line. And in the end, Mifflin County withstood the heat.

The Mifflin County Babe Ruth 15-year-old all stars jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and then held on for a 10-7 victory in the District 7 finals over Altoona Monday night.

It was a historic win for Mifflin County as it was the league’s 600th win (600-257) and was the league’s 80th district title, 79 of them in District 7.

Mifflin County will now move on to the state tournament in Williamsport for a 1 p.m. contest against Lock Haven Thursday.

“Glad we didn’t have to go to the second game,” Bernie Howard, the Mifflin County manager, said as he smiled. “It seems like it always comes down to pitching. Today was no exception. Alex (Hackenberg) gave us everything he had. A couple of uncharacteristic errors put us in a situation where we were forced to make a move.”

Hackenberg pitched into the fourth inning, before giving way to Aaron Sharp.

Altoona fell behind early as Mifflin County built a 7-0 lead after two innings.

Sharp opened the game with a base hit. He stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a balk.

Then in the second inning, the Altoona starter Josiah Huber couldn’t find the plate.

Jared Soles opened the second with a single. Nate Earnest, Graham Rhoades and Tyler Powell all drew walks with Powell getting an RBI. Andrew Larson singled home a run to keep the rally alive.

Sharp popped to third, but when Zach Hostetler grounded to second, Rhoades scored. Then Hackenberg helped his own cause with a two-run double and when Lucas Harshbarger hit a ball to deep center that Altoona misplayed, it was 7-0.

Altoona’s Andrew Gressler finished the second and then held the Mifflin County offense in check until he went out in the fifth inning.

Meanwhile, Altoona kept chipping away at the lead. It scored three runs in the second and two in the fifth cutting the Mifflin County margin to 7-5.

Sharp entered with one out and the bases loaded in the fourth. He hit the first man he faced and the next one flew out to right field for a sacrifice fly. Finally, he got Jake Mellott to end the inning with a fly ball to left.

“At that point Aaron Sharp came in and he proved to be equal to the task,” Howard said.

Mifflin County picked up a run in the fifth as Soles singled and later scored on an Altoona error.

In the top of the seventh inning, Mifflin County scored two insurance runs, and it was a good thing, too. With two outs Mifflin County picked up two runs as Soles reached on a fielder’s choice and Rhoades followed with a base hit. Powell then singled home Earnest and Larson singled home Rhoades.

Finally in the seventh, Altoona got to Sharp. Devyn Carper walked to open the inning and Catcher Cumming doubled him home. Jake Mellott then flew out to right field for out number one. Brenden Vollkonner grounded out to Rhoades at shortstop as he had to go deep into the hole to throw him out.

But, Altoona wouldn’t quit. Troy Livermore doubled and Mitchell Conrad walked, putting runners on first and second and Mifflin County was suddenly feeling the heat. But Sharp put a damper on the rally as he struck out Mason Betar to end the game and win the district title.

“We played inspired baseball throughout the tournament, and this team certainly deserves the district title,” Howard said. “We had contributions throughout the lineup defensivley and offensivley and today was no exception.”

“This district title means a lot to Coach (Chuck) Curry and myself as this was the best all-star competition that we have faced during our years coaching,” Howard said.

Defensively Mifflin County committed four errors, but it also came up with two great defensive plays early in the game. Hostetler ended the second inning with a great running catch in left field as he fooled most of the crowd with his magic act of catching the ball low and keeping it in his glove.

In the third, with runners on second and first, a ball was hit hard to Larson at third base and he turned it quickly into a 5-4 double play.

Mifflin County pounded out 14 hits with Larson and Soles each getting three.

For Howard it was his 11th district title and he is now tied with the late Bob Reigle for second place. Fred Zook is the current leader with 12.