Juniata County forces winner-take-all

Jack Hoffman hits grand slam in the win

Sentinel photo by BRETT CROSSLEY
Juniata County’s shortstop Carson Kepner dives for a ground ball during a Little League District 13 major baseball game against Snyder County.

BERWICK– Prior to taking the field, Juniata manager Ed Jamison told his players Jack Hoffman would end up being the player of the game as they prepared to take on Snyder County.

The Little League District 13 major baseball championship will go one more day as Hoffman — who hit a grand slam in the sixth inning — forced a winner-take-all game with an 8-2 win over Snyder County.

The winner of today’s game will advance to the Section 3 tournament. As for Jamison’s prediction, it came true when Juniata was leading by a run. It wanted more and got it when Hoffman cleared the bases with one swing.

“I just wanted to get a base hit and score a run,” Hoffman said. “I was pretty much just sitting on a fast ball. The pitch wasn’t the one I was looking for, but it hit the bat.”

The shot gave Juniata a six-run cushion. It also followed through with his coaches’ prediction that Hoffman would be the player of the game.

Hoffman cleared the left field fence by a good margin, but was his trip home that he worried about the most. His teammates greeted and slapped hit helmet.

“I thought it was going foul,” Hoffman said. “It was encouraging to see my teammates, but scary at the same time. It kind of hurts when they hit you.”

Snyder County’s lead slipped away in the fifth inning when back-to-back doubles from Seth Laub and Grant Rhienhold cleared the bases for three runs to score.

The Juniata bench, which had been mostly quiet up to that point, came to life. The offensive outburst jolted the team and paved the way for a strong finish by the defense, which retired the final six batters of the game.

“We knew it was going to be tough pitching all the way through,” Jamison said. “All we did after we lost to these guys was hit. We we’ve been working on hitting ever since and we have put up at least seven runs in our two game since.”

Snyder County scored two runs in the fourth when Garrett Leitzel, Trevor Sheaffer, and Cole Keister connected with singles.

“It’s hard when you’re not batting the ball to win a game,” Snyder County manager Jamie Portzline said. “We thought the boys kept going, but they just weren’t all together tonight. We’re hoping we can come back tomorrow.”