Mustangs rally over East Juniata

MIDDLEBURG – Aretha Franklin could have written the soundtrack for Friday’s non-league softball game between East Juniata and Midd-West.

Both District 4 clubs have struggled through the season; neither was eligible for the playoffs before the first pitch in this one was thrown.

They just wanted respect.

East Juniata got a little with a first-inning run and a lead that held to the third. It was an even game going into the bottom of the fifth, and that’s when Midd-West pitcher Adrianne Gesselman sent the message that she wasn’t going to take a loss easily in her final home game.

Gesselman roped an RBI single to center to put the go-ahead run across the plate, and the Mustangs galloped through the rest of the game to a 9-3 win.

The Tigers, who scored the first run of the game, added singles in the fourth and fifth to match Midd-West’s three-run third, putting the scoreboard on even when the home side of the fifth began.

Starting at the bottom of the order, the Mustangs got a leadoff single from Hanna Hackenberg; courtesy runner Brooke Paige got to second on a passed ball and No. 1 hitter Sara Shambach walked to put two on base.

With one out, Gesselman came to the plate, went after the first pitch and sent it to the outfield. Her base hit scored Paige; Summer Brown followed that with a two-out single to put an insurance run across, and Midd-West was on the way to the win.

“I just kind of figured that we needed it, and what better opportunity to help out my teammates and help out myself on the mound,” Gesselman said of her opportunistic hit.

East Juniata re-entered starting pitcher Allison Beaver for the sixth – she had a solid outing in her early work – but the Mustangs were on a mission. Four singles and an error propelled the Mustangs to a four-run frame and a solid lead before wrapping it up in the seventh.

Gesselman assumed Meisha Heintzelman, the Tiger reliever, came to the circle as an act of confidence.

“Bringing in their second pitcher, they thought, ‘Well, we have this,'” she surmised. “Then they figured out they didn’t have it, so they had to bring back out their starter.”

East Juniata coach Joe Schilling said it was to avoid problems with a young hurler – Beaver is a freshman.

“Pitching-wise we’ve always been struggling this year. Allison’s a freshman; I thought she did a great job starting off. I wanted to give her a break, let her rest up a little bit,” he said. “And by that time, they were getting the bat on the ball. They had some really nice shots.”

The breakout sixth, Gesselman said, was fueled not by overconfidence, but by desire.

“We were just talking about getting our fifth win, I think,” she said. “Not to get over confident, and go out and play the seventh inning.”

The Tigers scored first, when Lydia Hunter was hit by a pitch, advanced on a wild pitch then came home on a Heintzelman single.

An error, singles by Gesselman and Emily Hackenberg and an untimely wild pitch led to three Midd-West runs in the third.

Erin Heimbach singled and scored in the fourth on a Sam Lash grounder. An inning later, Hunter, who opened the fifth with a triple, came home on a groundout by Kasi Horning.

The Tigers did well defensively by containing the damage in the third, when Midd-West had the bases loaded. But a mental lapse on the base paths may have been responsible for the second Mustang run in the fifth.

“We couldn’t come through when we needed to,” Schilling lamented. “The girls played, for the most part, decently.”

Midd-West (5-14) hosts Newport Monday. East Juniata travels to Upper Dauphin today.