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Silver season

Mifflin Co. 15s national runners-up

Sentinel photo by LILY SHUTT
Chris Moon, right, a member of the Mifflin County Babe Ruth 15-year-old All-Stars, gets advice from coach Kalen Gearhart during the national championship game Wednesday in Eagle Pass, Texas. The locals fell to a team from California, finishing second in the nation.

EAGLE PASS, Texas — The Mifflin County 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars ended their season on Wednesday afternoon, earning the silver medal after being defeated by California in the national title game, 9-1.

The all-stars’ 17-game journey to national runner-up status began on July 9 and got off to a quick start. Mifflin County won its first five games over Centre County, Keystone, Broomall-Newtown, Altoona and Ashland by an average of more than nine runs per game.

Centre County ended the winning streak with a decisive 5-0 win over Mifflin County in the state championship, but the local all-stars responded by winning their next five games — including two against Centre County — to punch their ticket to the Babe Ruth World Series.

To begin national pool play, Mifflin County was blanked 4-0 by New England. But Mifflin County responded, rattling off a 19-1 and 6-1 wins against East Texas and Southern Washington, respectively, before a tough 10-6 loss to Florida. That set their pool play record at 2-2, which earned them spot in the single-elimination championship bracket.

In order for Mifflin County to win the national title, they’d have to go on another winning streak, as three straight victories would give them the gold.

Their single-elimination bracket play started with a narrow 2-1 victory over North Dakota. Landen Eichhorn tossed a complete game three-hitter, limiting North Dakota to an unearned run while striking out six batters. Down to their final out, Xavier Smith came up with one of the biggest hits of the tournament for Mifflin County as he smacked a two-run double in the top of the seventh inning to complete the comeback and stun North Dakota.

Mifflin County’s next opponent was a familiar foe–the New England team that handed them it’s first loss in pool play. However, Mifflin County looked to flip the script and got out to an early 3-0 lead, in part to sloppy New England defense.

New England stormed back and took a 4-3 lead after five innings and the score remained the same heading into Mifflin County’s final at bat. Again, the all-stars were backed into a corner, down to their final out before tapping into some more Mifflin County magic.

Smith, no stranger to clutch situations, came to the plate with runners on first and second with a chance to either tie the game or take the lead. The established clutch hitter popped one up in the infield, which appeared to be the final nail in Mifflin County’s coffin. However, neither New England’s pitcher or first baseman called for the pop up and the ball fell in between the fielders, allowing the tying run to score.

Mifflin County took the lead on a single by Ryan Kanagy, advancing the score to 6-4, which proved to be enough to send them to the championship game.

Despite the loss to California in the battle for gold, Mifflin County’s 2021 Babe Ruth run was a dazzling display of baseball from local athletes on the national stage. Players like Smith, Sheaffer and Eichhorn had impressive World Series’ performances, but the 13-4 record over the course of the summer is a clear indicator that every player that put on a Mifflin County — or Middle Atlantic — uniform played their part in the team’s success that the gave an entire county in Pennsylvania something to cheer for.

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