Lions all wet after stoppage

STATE COLLEGE – With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning of Friday’s softball game between Mifflin County and State College, the game was there for the taking with the Huskies clinging to a slim 2-1 lead.

That’s when Mother Nature interfered, as she sent a thunderstorm through Happy Valley, causing a delay of nearly an hour.

When play was resumed, the Little Lions got themselves even on a double by Ellie Frey, a wild pitch and a bunt single by Lexi Mattivi.

Although lightning from the storm didn’t strike the Husky bats, something energized them as they used eight hits and four State High errors to plate the final five runs of the game to set the final at Mifflin County 7, State College 2.

“When you have those chances to make those plays defensively, you really do have to make them,” State College coach Mike Harper said. “If you don’t execute in fielding a bunt that makes it tough. There should have been outs that we didn’t get simply because we didn’t execute. It is tough to hang with a really tough team when you don’t make plays and (Mifflin County) is a really good team. We just didn’t do ourselves any favors in that inning.”

When it was all said and done, Mifflin County coach Jack McCurdy felt that the break caused by the storm might have been a big factor in making it happen for his players.

“There were several things that energized our kids,” McCurdy said. “I just told them that when they went on the bus (during the delay) they looked puzzled at the plate. The kid they were facing threw a lot of slow stuff and I think their timing was off.

“But when they came off that bus, they just seemed to have a completely different attitude. All you had to do was look in their eyes and you could see they were very confident.”

Not only did the Huskies (15-3, 13-1) use some good line shots in their attack to pull away, they also played some small ball and it worked to perfection.

“We had some speed coming up and our offense came alive. When that happened, it brought our defense alive as well,” McCurdy said. “We just got the momentum and we took that momentum and we rode it. I figured we needed baserunners and the small ball gave that to us.”

Mifflin County took the initial lead in the first inning when Tara Kibe reached on an error and scored when Mara Rhodes also reached on a State College miscue.

State tied the game in the second on three straight singles by Megan Robert, Laura Harris and a line drive shot to center by Michaela Rittenhouse that chased Robert across the dish.

The tie was short-lived, however, as Allessa Morrison led off the third with a booming home run well over the left fielder’s head to swing the pendulum back in favor of the Huskies, and that is the way it stayed until the game resumed after the storm.

Leading the Mifflin County 12-hit offensive attack were Hannah Ruby and Jordan Shirey with three hits apiece. Showing her versatility, Ruby went the distance in the circle to pick up the win, allowing the Little Lions two runs on a half dozen hits, striking out two and hitting one batter.

“Shirey struggled a little bit earlier in the year but right now, she is really coming around,” McCurdy said. “With the hitting we showed overall and the job that Ruby did for us in the circle, right now I think this team has a load of confidence as they get ready for the postseason.”

After State (10-8) tied the game with a run in the fifth, Ruby got stronger as she retired the Little Lions in 1-2-3 fashion in each of the final two innings with six ground ball outs.

“We practice a lot on driving the hitting zone,” Harper said. “The idea is to consistently hit line drives, but credit to her (Ruby), she kept the ball down on us, and when you throw hard down, you are going to get a lot of ground balls. She is a good pitcher and she pitched the way she had to to get the ground balls.”