Mifflin County falls close

BUTLER TWP. – With the league’s co-pitchers of the year on the roster, it would be hard to explain to West End that Mifflin County’s Ty Bodtorf was not one of them.

Bodtorf’s five-hitter against the defending state champions was undone by an unearned run as West End claimed a 2-1 victory over Mifflin County in the 13-15 year old division Babe Ruth state tournament at Freedom Park.

“Ty threw a fantastic game,” Mifflin County manager Fred Zook said. “It hurts to waste a performance like that. Our defense played solid as well. We just didn’t get any timely hitting.”

Mifflin County, winners of 10 previous state 15-year-old division titles, won the 14-year-old crown last year. West End won its first state championship since 2006 last year. Both programs have a great deal of respect for each other.

“Williamsport (West End) was the only team to beat us last year,” Zook said. “It was in a playoff and by a run again. West End is a tough team every year.”

In the West End fourth, Patrick Swink reached on an error, then Bodtorf fanned the next two batters. Jesse Cornell singled in the hole to extend the inning before Sal White doubled down the left-field line from the bottom of the order to break a 1-1 tie.

“I told (Mifflin County coach) Bill Corbin I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them again (Monday or Tuesday in the tourney’s final four),” West End manager Tom Marnon said.

Bodtorf faced more than five batters only once, striking out three in an 112-pitch outing. West End took an early lead in the bottom of the first on him, as catcher Michael Weber lofted a two-out curveball into center field to drive in pitcher Larry Van Stavoren, who had singled to lead off the inning.

Mifflin County got the run back for Bodtorf in the top of the second, as right fielder Eddie Hamman and third baseman Jordan Marshall started the inning with singles. Left fielder Trent Hidlay waited on a one-out curve and served the ball into right to bring home Hamman with the tying run.

“They played some really good defense for 15-year-olds,” Marnon said of his West End squad. “(We) made errors on the first two plays of the game, then were solid the rest of the way. You can’t give away extra outs.”

Missed opportunities early proved costly for Mifflin County. The first two batters of each of the first two innings reached base, but only one run came in and four were stranded. Over the final five innings, Mifflin County sent more than three batters to the plate just once – in the sixth inning after center fielder Kenny Cavanaugh’s infield single and Bodtorf drew a walk.

“We should have bunted a bit more earlier on,” Zook said. “They had a couple of errors early (the first two Mifflin County batters reached on miscues) but we didn’t take advantage of them.”

Beyond the first two innings, Mifflin County “just swung at too many bad pitches,” Zook added. “We weren’t very selective.”

After laboring through 42 pitches in the first two innings, Van Stavoren found a groove. He saw 12 in a row go back to the dugout after batting, though Hamman was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Van Stavoren needed just 46 pitches to get through the final five innings. He allowed five hits and struck out seven.

“There were two great pitching performances,” Marnon said. “Larry threw a lot of off-speed pitches. They were effective as he had them out on their front foot.”

NOTES: Hamman had two of Mifflin County’s five hits. … Cornell had two of West End’s five hits. … In the tourney’s first game, Tri Township downed Aston Valley, 11-5. … Mifflin County plays again Friday at 11 a.m. against Franklin Township. … Thursday’s slate features Tri Township (1-0) vs. Franklin Township at 11 a.m., West End (1-0) vs. Broomall/Newtown at 2 p.m., and Aston Valley (0-1) vs. Valley at 5 p.m.