MW tops Shikellamy, returns to title game

WILLIAMSPORT – After a close call last year that saw Midd-West drop a tough 1-0 decision to Jersey Shore in nine innings in the District 4 Class AAA championship baseball game, the Mustangs had some unfinished business to take care of.

Obviously smarting from that tough loss, Midd-West successfully punched its ticket to the title game as the Mustangs defeated Shikellamy 4-0 in their semifinal outing.

The game was the rubber match between the two clubs. Midd-West won the first game in the regular season by a 7-1 score before the Braves blanked the Mustangs 8-0 in the second meeting.

“We had good pitching, we were able to get some key hits when we needed them and played good defense,” Midd-West coach Ron Flood said. “When you do those things you are going to win ball games. It is as simple as that.”

The Mustangs jumped on top right out of the chute when Aaron Sharp doubled down the right-field line, moved to third on a fly out to center by Eli Stem and scored when Shikellamy catcher Colby Lahr couldn’t handle the 1-0 offering from Ross Wonsik.

The Mustangs squandered a good scoring opportunity in the second when they juiced the sacks with two outs. Up to the task, Wonsik coaxed Stem into a come-backer to end the threat.

“I told the guys after the first two innings they had just left five guys on base and I hope it didn’t come back to bite us,” said Flood. “I think we left nine guys on base and that isn’t good. They (Shikellamy) aren’t a bad team. They started a freshman (pitcher) and then they brought in (Nick) Dunn in and he throws hard. We are fortunate to be going to the finals again.”

Again, the Mustangs made some noise in the fourth when Colton Snook singled to center and Matt Aurand followed by working Wonsik for a free pass.

However, this time the Mustangs were able to capitalize on the opportunity as they came up with three runs to take a 4-0 lead.

Big hits for the Mustangs in the uprising were a two-run single to left by Aaron Sharp and an RBI-single to center by Shane Connahan and they never looked back. Sharp finished perfect at 3-for-3 with a pair of singles and a double, good for two RBI and one run scored.

“He went into a slump for a while and asked us what he was doing” said Flood. “We told him that he wasn’t staying back on the ball long enough. We told him to let the ball come to him and then hit it. He has been doing that and it shows. He is a good kid.”

Sharp agreed with the assessment of his coach.

“I had trouble staying back and wait for the ball to come to me,” said Sharp. “Once I have been doing that, I can get the bat through the zone and hit the ball wherever I want to. Our goal is to win one game at a time and we had to win this game to get back to the finals.”

While his teammates were busy scoring runs, Mustang pitcher Hunter Shuff was busy taking care of the Shikellamy hitters.

For the game, Shuff went the distance, allowing the Braves no runs on three hits, walking two and striking out four.

“We have been after him at times because at times he gets ahead in the middle to save a little bit for the end,” said Flood of Shuff. “We told him to go hard because if we need somebody else, we’ll put someone else in. I just thought he threw a heck of a game.”

Following the game, Shuff admitted that he was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead of the batters.

“I just wanted to throw strikes, locate all of my pitches and keep the ball down in the (strike) zone,” Shuff said. “They are a good hitting team and I didn’t want to let them have anything they could drive. My approach depended on who the hitter was. I just tried to pitch to each batter the way my previous pitches went against them and how their previous at-bats were.”

With the win, the Mustangs advance to the title game to face Jersey Shore, a 3-1 winner over Milton. The game will be on Wednesday at Bowman Field in Williamsport.