Out of reach
MIFFLINTOWN – A mistake-riddled second inning cost Juniata in its 11-0 six-inning, season-opening loss to Line Mountain on Wednesday night at Juniata High School.
The six-run second for Line Mountain included five singles, two of which didn’t leave the infield, as well as two costly errors.
“It’s just one of those things where you have to keep your head up and keep pushing,” Juniata shortstop Chad Eberle said. “It’s a new team and we’re just starting to play with each other. We’ve had two practices so far. We all know how to play baseball. I think that first couple innings was first game jitters.”
The visitors, on the other hand, limited mistakes with no errors and only one walk issued by pitcher Austin Synder, who threw a complete game shutout.
Snyder pitched to contact, striking out four Juniata batters and scattering four hits over six innings, facing five over the minimum.
After a strikeout to start the inning, T.J. Harris singled to start the road second.
Justin Kaleta, Kellan Masser and Brady Michael followed with singles, as Michael’s single scored the second Line Mountain run.
That’s when the trouble really started for Juniata.
Erik Smeltz grounded out to Juniata third baseman Spencer Page, who tried to get the force out at home.
Page’s throw home sailed over the head of catcher Kyle Hart and two more runs scored.
Line Mountain catcher J.P. Lenker struck out to give Juniata two outs and a light at the end of the tunnel, yet an overthrow on Snyder’s grounder to third allowed two more runs to score and make it 6-0 Line Mountain.
“We’re going to have to work on that a little bit,” Juniata coach Mark Mingle said. “We talked with them about it. We know that it’s really going to cost us and we just can’t have that.”
Kyle Mace’s grounder up the middle where Eberle couldn’t make a tough play to secure the final out scored another run.
Harris grounded out to pitcher Blaise Roush, who ended the inning to stop the bleeding.
Juniata couldn’t get anything going at the plate, going down in order in the second and third innings.
Snyder’s only walk, a four-pitch free pass to Roush, couldn’t get anything going in the fourth.
In the sixth, the next three Juniata players went down in order to end the inning just as they did in the fifth.
Line Mountain picked up another run in the fifth and added three in the top of the sixth, with some help from another Juniata error to give Line Mountain an 11-0 lead and to bring the mercy rule into play.
“We could have been right there the whole game,” Eberle said. “Errors just killed us, it was simple. If we didn’t have errors we could have been in it all game.”
Juniata got back-to-back hits from Roush and Hart with two outs in the sixth, but a strikeout of Chas Maguire ended the game.
Juniata’s first and best chance to score came in the bottom half of the opening inning when Eberle doubled with one out and Roush’s single to short center put runners on the corners.
“It is (an adjustment) up at the plate,” Eberle said of the transition from the recently ended high school season to the Legion season. “You’ve got to make sure your hands are in on the ball with the wood bats. It’s more small ball here in legion than it is in high school. You’re not going to be hitting bombs to the outfield all game long. A ground ball can very easily be a base hit.”
Snyder struck out Hart and got Maguire to ground out to short to end the threat.
Line Mountain had 13 hits, all of them singles, as the visitors pinned the tough-luck loss on Roush.
“I really liked what I saw with our pitching,” Mingle said. “We kept them off balance, we just really didn’t help (our pitchers) in the field or with the sticks.”
Juniata (0-1) will visit Mifflin County at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Rec Park in Lewistown.