Post 287 clinches spot in championship
Howard, Curry record 500th win as coaches
LEWISTOWN — Mifflin County, down three runs early in the game, rode the arm of Andrew Larson and capitalized on poor State College pitching to come away with a 9-4 Central Penn League American Legion playoff victory on Monday.
Post 287 advances to the CPL championship where they will go on the road for the second time in three days to face Beech Creek tonight at 6 p.m. Mifflin County (21-7) must defeat Beech Creek — a team that beat Post 287 6-2 on Sunday– twice to win the title and adavnce to the regionals.
“We have to take it one game at a time, and with a team like Beech Creek, you can’t give them an inch. If you make mistakes they are going to run it right down your throat,” Mifflin County manager Bernie Howard said. “Like tonight, we gave up runs early on Sunday and then shut them out from the third inning on. We’ll certainly be ready. Because Andrew had such a gutsy performance on the mound, that gives us Jared Hannon on the hill and we feel comfortable there.”
Larson, who looked shaky the first three innings, righted himself to shut down Post 245 the rest of the way for the victory. Larson allowed four runs on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Larson allowed no hits and only two base runners in the final four innings.
“I’m not quite sure what to make of that first inning but give the credit to Andrew Larson. He maintained his composure. I thought he did an excellent job,” Howard said. “Being down three right off the bat, it could have been a big disaster. He didn’t get rattled; we picked ourselves up and got right back in it. For him to get a complete game for us is huge. With the pitching count the way it is in Legion ball one pitch counts as a days’ rest. The three guys who threw last night (Sunday) at Beech Creek couldn’t throw today. Andrew was pretty much in a do or die situation for us and he was up for the challenge.”
With the win, Howard and assistant coach Chuck Curry, together for 17 years, crossed the milestone 500-victory mark – counting both Legion and Junior Babe Ruth.
“That’s a lot of games. We didn’t win any of those. That’s not our job. Our job is to put our team in the best position to be successful. We’re best friends and we have enjoyed this together. That’s a pretty sweet number,” Howard said.
Curry didn’t even know they were closing in on the milestone until Howard told him recently.
“Bernie’s the stat man. I would have never known. He told me last week we were at 499. I don’t want to brag about it, but it is pretty special. In 17 years, that averages out to 31 wins a year,” Curry said. “We’ve been together a long time, had a lot of success and obviously have the right formula.”
Down 3-0 in the first, Mifflin County tied it at three in the bottom of the frame when Max Oburn reached on a fielder’s choice. Ty Bodtorf followed with a singl to left with Aaron Kanagy walking to load the bases. Ross Underhill’s RBI-groundout to short scored Oburn, while Cade Attick followed with a two-run knock over third, plating both Bodtorf and Kanagy.
State College added a run in the third to regain the advantage at 4-3. The lead was short-lived as Post 287 tied it again when Tyreen Smalley scored on a wild pitch.
Mifflin County broke the game open with a four-run fourth, taking advantage of bad pitching from Post 245. State College pitchers gave up ten walks and threw four wild pitches in six innings of work.
Kanagy started the inning with a walk, Underhill singled to left and Attick walked to load the bases, setting the stage for Evan Mock. Mock’s two-run base hit to center scored Kanagy and Underhill to make it 6-4. Attick came home on a wild pitch and Bodtorf followed with a single to left, plating Mock for the comfortable 8-4 lead.
“Evan Mock’s two-run base hit was huge. The pitcher had him 0-2, he kept battling, got his pitch and drilled it. That gave us the lead and we were able to hang on to it,” Howard said. “We never put ourselves out there like a huge, explosive offensive team, but we took advantage of our opportunities. I use the term patiently aggressive, and it paid off tonight, not swinging at bad pitches, forcing their pitchers to come in and it worked to our advantage.”
Mifflin County added a run in the sixth when Nick Hostetler singled to right, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a Larson fielder’s choice. Underhill and Bodtorf each had two hits, while Attick and Mock collected two RBIs. The defense turned over three double plays.
“The double plays helped. Our defense was shaky in the first inning when we gave up the three runs. In the end, it was the defense that did an excellent job,” Howard said. “We’ve turned 27 or 28 infield double plays this year. That’s big for our pitching staff.”