14-year-olds fall in extra innings

MILROY – The Mifflin County Babe Ruth 14-year-old all-stars lost its state tournament pool play opener in heartbreaking fashion Wednesday night, falling victim to a walk-off single from West End of Williamsport’s Ethan Stryker in the bottom of the eight inning. The 2-1 loss at Armagh Memorial Field in Milroy drops the locals to 0-1 in the pool play round of the tournament.

The scoreboard showed nothing but zeroes after Mifflin County’s Nick Hostetler scored on an error in the top of the first to open the scoring until West End was finally able to tie the game in the sixth.

Mifflin County starting pitcher Kyle Peachey was the player most responsible for the low-scoring affair. He went seven innings, allowing just the one run and striking out eight West End batters in the process.

But West End’s sixth was enough to prolong the contest. Two consecutive walks followed by a wild pitch put runners on second and third with just one out, setting up an RBI groundout by Nate Welch that knotted the game 1-1. West End was the home team despite the contest being played on Mifflin County’s home field.

Mifflin County’s best chance to win it came in the top of the eighth. Derrick Cross drew a lead-off walk off of West End reliever Tyler Mankey and Drew Williams sent him to third with a single to right. That’s when disaster struck. Williams took off for second base following a pitch from new reliever Tanner Esposito, but catcher Ryan Jolen threw to third base instead, picking off Cross, who had taken one too many steps away from the bag.

“That took us out of the inning,” Mifflin County manager Mike Hostetler said. “First and third with nobody out and we get caught up in that. That was big.”

Aaron Wagner followed the momentum-killing baserunning blunder with a walk, but the West End infield wasn’t done putting on a show. Esposito fielded Carson King’s sharp comebacker on the mound and fired to third baseman Isaac Snyder, who fired across the diamond to first for the rare 1-5-3 double play to end the inning.

That inspring sequence led to the fateful bottom of the eight. Mankey led off with a single and advanced to third on a passed ball and a fielder’s choice. Mifflin County had a chance to strand him with two outs, but lefty reliever Chris Elliott’s 1-1 offering was roped into the gap in right-center field, putting West End, the defending state champions, in the win column.

“We thought about walking the last kid there (Stryker),” Hostetler said of the visitors’ cleanup hitter. “He was 0-3, struck out once and had a couple popups. We took a chance with two outs there.”

West End’s pitching trio of Snyder, Mankey, and Esposito limited Mifflin County to one run, unearned, on just five hits.

“All three of our pitchers did great,” West End manager George Lepley said. “The only run they got was on a walk, two passed balls, and an error. Our defense was great, picking that runner off and getting the double play in the eighth. It was a great game all around by both sides. That was probably one of the best games I’ve been involved in in quite awhile, and I’ve been coaching for about 25 years.”

Hostetler wasn’t displeased with his team’s effort in the hard-fought defeat.

“I think after last year with them beating us 8-0, us closing the gap to 2-1 this time and with a couple mistakes here and there it could’ve gone either way.”

Mifflin County will be back in action Friday at 8 pm in Milroy against Levittown.