Sixth-inning surge lifts Predators over Lemont

LEWISTOWN – The Lewistown Predators used a late barrage of runs and a solid six innings on the mound from Nate Saltzer to bury the Lemont Ducks 13-3 Thursday evening at Mifflin County High School.

Sean Heckert and Cody Battista both launched home runs for the Predators, who used a six-run bottom of the sixth inning to extend the lead to 10 and end the game due to the 10-run rule.

There was no indication in the opening innings that this contest would be shortened because of the mercy rule. The Predators jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first on Morgan Barger’s RBI single, but Jim Macky stranded two base runners by grounding out.

The only bump in the road for Saltzer came in the third. He surrendered a double, then plunked Trey Nicosia and walked Johnny Martinez to load the bases with no outs. Cleanup hitter Kieran Kempton then flew out to deep center on a sacrifice fly, missing a grand slam by a few feet. Kyle Wright then notched an RBI groundout before Saltzer retired his pitching counterpart, Matt Smith, to end the inning.

Lewistown took the lead for good in the third with the help of a two-out rally. Battista walked, setting up three consecutive two-out base hits from Ryan Keefer, Barger, and Macky that plated three runs and gave Saltzer the cushion he needed.

With the top of the order coming up in the fourth, the Predators offense was just getting started. Heckert recorded an RBI on a fielder’s choice and Battista followed that up with his two-run blast to center.

“We really came out swinging the bats, which was good because that was a pretty good pitcher we faced,” said Heckert, who also manages the Predators. “I thought we worked the count well and were able to get hitter’s pitches to hit, which helped us really drive the ball.”

With a 7-3 advantage heading into the bottom of the sixth and Saltzer pitching well, the Predators weren’t in dire need of more runs but the offense came through anyway. Jay Hartman smacked a double and Heckert followed with a two-run bomb of his own to right field. Two more runs scored on walks and base hits from Macky and Cy Treaster. Chris Drobnick bounced into a double play, but Mike Higgins drove in two by lofting a single down the right field line that put the locals up by 10 and ended the game.

The offensive performance was a huge improvement from a day before when the Predators beat Spring Mills 4-2 despite a less-than-stellar offensive performance.

“That’s just how baseball is sometimes,” Heckert said. “Sometimes you line the ball up and sometimes you don’t.”

Saltzer pitched a complete game for Lewistown, striking out four and stranding seven Lemont runners on base.

“He pitched really well, threw a lot of first pitch strikes,” Heckert said. “The past few starts we’ve seen a lot of improvement from him. At the beginning of the season he struggled through some starts but he’s really come around in time for the playoffs. He’s one of our better pitchers, so we expect these kinds of starts out of him.”

Lewistown will likely be heading into the Centre County League playoffs this weekend as the No. 2 seed.