Huskies ready for familiar foe

LEWISTOWN – With a No. 2 seed behind Central Mountain, Mifflin County gets a home game to start the District 6 Class AAAA softball tournament.

The Huskies host Commonwealth Division foe State College today at 4 p.m. as they seek a return to the district title game and the state tournament.

Mission No. 1 for Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy and his staff is to get the team back on track after a pair of difficult losses bumped the Huskies from contention for the Mid-Penn Conference tournament.

“We were cruising along, just cruising,” he said. “I don’t know how many games we played in the last two weeks of the season, but you could tell it was starting to be a bit of a grind on the girls. We were playing all the time.”

It was eight games in 11 days; the first was a huge win over Central Dauphin that cemented Mifflin County’s role as a contender for the league. On consecutive days, the Huskies took down State College, and that was just a day after a win over Cedar Cliff.

But that was on the heels of consecutive losses to Central Dauphin East – which needed the win to clinch a District 3 playoff spot – and Chambersburg, the latter putting the Huskies in a tie with Cumberland Valley at the top of the Commonwealth standings. The tie was broken in the Eagles’ favor using District 3’s power rating criteria.

“When they lost that second game, and now all of a sudden we’re tied with Cumberland Valley, it was just amazing,” McCurdy said. “We were sitting on top of the world over in State College Friday night … Two games later everything had just kind of turned around on us.”

McCurdy’s task now is to get the girls over that, especially with the Little Lions being a third-time opponent – a situation in sports that often has unexpected outcomes.

“And I don’t know why – I really don’t know why that might be the case. We just have to look at this like the other two games were the other two games,” he said. “We know a little more about them and they know a little more about us. It’s really going to be who makes the better adjustments.”

Pitching is key in softball, but the Huskies have an ace in the circle in Shelby Lyter. State College is more of a wild card due to injuries and staffing changes Mifflin County has seen in the two meetings.

“It’s a big question mark for State College. The first time we played them they pitched a freshman,” McCurdy said. “Since Jess (Henderson) and Hannah Shields were both hurt, they’ve been throwing Karli Nolan quite a bit.

“She throws a lot of junk,” he said, in an admiring way. “We’ve struggled with her. She’s not terribly fast, but she is pretty effective at moving the ball.”

Hitting proved elusive in the two final games of the season, something McCurdy attributes to the team pressuring itself – the girls could have been the first team from the school to capture a Commonwealth Division title, but knew they had to win one to get it. And they need to avoid the kind of mistakes that hurt them in those two contests.

“We’re going to be in close games just like we played with CD East and Chambersburg. It really comes down a lot of times to who makes the least mistakes,” McCurdy said. “We really need to tighten up our defense – they need to be in the game. We have to show up each game with focus and ready to play our best ball.”

Today’s winner plays either Altoona or top seed Central Mountain May 28 at Nittany Lion Softball Park. The Wildcats have recorded non-league wins over both Mifflin County and State College.