Predators drop Game 1 to Howard

LEWISTOWN – You just can’t beat good pitching.

Unfortunately for the Lewistown Predators, good pitching was what they faced in the opening game of the best-of-five first-round series against the Howard Hawks in Centre County League baseball Sunday.

The Hawks’ Brian Pelka didn’t overwhelm the local entry – he only struck out four, and walked one – but when he gave the Predators a pitch to attack, they came up short in the 9-1 loss. Or, as the old saying goes, everything they hit, they hit to somebody.

“He’s always pretty consistent. This is the third time this year he’s pitched against us,” Lewistown manager Sean Heckert said. “He’s been tough.”

Where the ball went proved to be a huge difference in the opener, in which each side mustered seven hits. Only one ball all day was good for extra bases – a two-run double by Pelka in the second – but the Hawks were able to take advantage of base runners where Lewistown was not.

Pelka’s double was a huge one-out smash to left field that scored Kyle Womer, who was walked, and Tyler Womer, who hit an RBI single to score the first run of the game. An inning later, Travis Price, who singled and crossed for the first run, had his own RBI single, and Tyler Womer hit another before being caught in a double play that ended the inning.

The double play was one of two nice pieces of defensive work by the Predators; in the opening frame, Morgan Barger gunned down Evan Gettig on what should have been a sacrifice fly; John Michael Maclay got in front of the plate to make the tag on Barger’s rocket throw.

Offensively, consistency was a problem for the Predators, who had a few hits scattered across the seven innings – and even had multiple runners on base in four different frames – but didn’t appear to threaten even with runners in scoring position.

The first chance for the locals came early in the game when Chris Drobnick and Tanner Kibe both singled, putting runners on the corners. But a strikeout marked the second out and a fielder’s choice play ended the inning before a run could cross.

In the sixth, Chad Battista was hit by a pitch and worked his way around the bases on a Ryan Keefer single and a pair of fielder’s choice balls for the only Lewistown run.

“We just didn’t put the bat on the ball today,” Heckert said. “I’m confident that we’ll get the bats going again. We scored 15, 16 runs the other night – we’ll be fine.”

Keefer and Drobnick both had a pair of base hits for the Predators; Cody Heane drove in the team’s lone run.

Lewistown travels to Howard for Game 2 at 6 p.m. on Tuesday; the teams will play Thursday back in Lewistown to end the week.