Mifflin County set to begin play today

LONGVIEW, Wash. — Usually when a team quailfies for the Babe Ruth Wrold Series, it’s a new experience.

For 12 of the 14 players on the Mifflin County Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-star team, it will be a thrill to travel more than 2,000 miles to play baseball, but it won’t be anything that they haven’t experienced.

Mifflin County will open play today at 4:30 p.m. (Eastern) against the Southeast (Tallahassee, Florida). The rest of the pool play schedule includes Pacific Southwest (Torrance, California), Saturday at 4:30 p.m.; host Kelso, Washington, Sunday at 10 p.m.; and New England (Concord, New Hampshire), Mondayat 4:30 p.m. Single-elimination play begins on Tuesday and the national championship game is set for Thursday.

In 2016 as 13-year-olds, Mifflin County traveled to Ottumwa, Iowa, and not only played, but went home as the national champs.

“The reality is now starting to set in,” said Justin Yoder, the Mifflin County manager. “But 12 of these players have been through this before.”

Transporting a team across the country is not an easy task. There are plenty of details to be worked out.

“The toughest part for me since we won the Mid-Atlantic Regionals has been taking care of the little details, especially with the people at the national headquaters in Trenton,” Yoder said. “My phone has been ringing nonstop.”

Mifflin County opened the tournament trail by racking up 10 straight wins, scoring in double figures in all of them, a Mifflin County record.

Mifflin County won its first game in the regional with a 14-0 win over Maryland. Then the scoring and the hitting slowed down — West End’s Logan Ott shut the door on Mifflin County with a 5-0 two-hitter.

To the credit of Mifflin County, it bounced back and won five games in two days including the clincher over West End, 14-5. That win was the tail end of a tripleheader, the first in league history.

“Our practices have been laid back,” Yoder said. “This has been fun for the players. They seem ready to go. We don’t play the first day, so that is an advantage for us. Our coaching staff plans to use that day to scout the other teams.”

Once Mifflin County arrives in Washington, Yoder is hoping that their bats keep the kids in contention for the title. Mifflin County has seven players that have registered in double figures with hits.

Casey Conner leads the team with 24, while Colby Bodtorf and Cole Schlegel each have 23. Brian Yetter isn’t too far off the pace with 21.

Ethan Eichhorn has 18 and Brycen Hassinger is right behind Eichhorn with 16. Rouding out the top seven is Bryce Dobson with 15.

Mifflin County has showed its power from time to time and has 38 extra-base hits. Schlegel leads the team with 10 — seven doubles and three triples. Right behind him is Yetter, who has nine doubles. Conner is the only player with a home run and he has two.

Yetter has knocked in the most runs with 19 and close behind him are Schlegel and Conner with 17. Bodtorf, who is the team’s leadoff man, has 16. Hassinger leads the second wave of hitters with 12, while Dobson has 11 and Jaxson Pupo 10.

Bodtorf has scored 22 runs to pace the Mifflin County line-up and Schlegel is close behind with 20. Conner and Yetter each have scored 18 runs and Bryce Dobson has come across the plate 17 times.

Rounding out the scoring are Ethan Eichhorn with 15 runs, Connor Cherry with 14 and Pupo has 11.

Mifflin County has used 10 pitchers and Yoder feels comforable with depth of his pitching staff.

“We have nine consistent pitchers,” he said. “I think I can go 10 deep. That’s not bad having 10 of 14 players who can help you on thre mound.”

Four players are 3-0 from the bump: Cherry, Dobson, Conner and Cole Knable. Eichhorn and Yetter are 1-0 and Bodtorf is 1-1.

In the field, Mifflin County had a few more miscues during the regional tournament. Mifflin County only committed four errors in its first nine games, but averaged one error a game in the seven regional games.

Mifflin County has turned in five double plays and it has seen the opposition get 10 against them.

Pupo and Todd Renninger, the two Mifflin County catchers, have kept the base runners at bay as they have only allowed 15 steals and thrown out four runners.

Yoder, when not coaching, has been speaking on behalf of the team to help raise money for the long trip west.

“We would like to thank the community for all the backing they given us in just this short period of time,” he said. “It’s unreal how our community has backed Babe Ruth baseball through the years.”