Leonard powers Juniata to first victory

Outfielder hits game-winning triple

Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
Juniata’s Levi Harper jumps over the tag attempt by Greenwood shortstop Aaron Morder while trying to steal second, Wednesday in Mifflintown. Harper was out on the play after hurdling the base and failing to dive back in time.

MIFFLINTOWN — Juniata and Bryce Leonard were in search of some firsts Wednesday night, and after five games, they both got what they were looking for.

Leonard was seeking his first hit of the season, and it came at a much-needed time as he tripled in the game-winning run for the elusive first win Juniata’s baseball team was hunting for.

The Indians defeated Greenwood, 5-2, in the Tri-Valley League game.

“We just needed to find ways to win a game,” Juniata coach Nick Beward said. “It wasn’t so much about how to play baseball, but just how to win. We finally started hitting the ball, and found a way to win tonight.”

With the game tied at three and Levi Harper on first base, Bryce Leonard ripped Aaron Bollinger’s pitch to deep center field. The ball kept carrying beyond the reach of a leaping Bryce Dalpiaz, eventually rolling to the fence.

Harper scored on the play as Leonard pulled into third with a standup triple.

“I’m happy to see a lot of guys hitting the ball well today, but Bryce Leonard had been struggling the whole season and that triple he put out there was a nice shot,” Beward said. “I could see the emotion out of him when he pulled into third base. It was like the monkey was off his back and it was time to start playing baseball.”

One pitch later, Devon Nealman pulled the ball down the third baseline to score Leonard and give the Indians (1-4, 1-3) the two-run cushion they would need to walk away with the victory.

Greenwood (2-4, 2-2) had its chances to make things tougher for Juniata — particularly in the first inning.

The Wildcats loaded the bases twice in the opening frame, but could only muster up one run thanks in large to a wild pitch by Indians’ pitcher Jamie Bailer.

“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities any,” Greenwood coach Mark Sherman said. “We didn’t get hits in a timely matter — when guys were on base. We just didn’t put everything together.”

Bailer managed to get out of the bases-loaded jam by striking out Garrett Howell and getting Landon Hall to ground back to the mound for the easy 1-3 put out.

Beward thinks a lot of the early struggles came from some pregame jitters.

“This is the first time he’s pitched for us all year,” Beward said. “He was all nervous and I could tell the second he walked out (to take the mound) and I said, ‘Are you okay?’ and he said, ‘Yeah’ (anxiously) and I knew he was not. I knew it was going to take some time for him to get going.”

Bailer got through six innings, striking out five hitters and walking two. All told, he threw 96 pitches in the contest. Though the Indians have games in each of the next three days, it helps by keeping most arms fresh for the congested schedule.

“We just had a discussion that when guys throw six innings, seven innings, we usually fare pretty well,” Beward said. “For the last three years, that’s what we have lived off of — our pitchers going the distance. I’m not a big fan of our pitchers going the distance because of the cold weather, but (Jamie) said he was good to go and I’m hoping it’s not going to affect him any the rest of the way.”

Bailer got the nod to start the seventh but walked the Wildcats’ Parker Taylor to start the inning. Bailer was then replaced by Cade Kreider, who got the seven-pitch save.

“Jamie was a little disappointed because he wanted to finish what he started, but that’s just the way it goes,” Beward said. “He got tight a little bit there at the end.”

The Wildcats were treated to some excellent pitching of their own.

Bollinger threw five innings and despite the Indians putting up five runs and walking away with the win, much of that is not Bollinger’s doing.

“If we played clean baseball, we still win the game,” Sherman said. “Bollinger threw well enough to win the game.”

Bollinger allowed three earned runs — with the other two coming from the team’s two errors in the second inning. He struck out four and walked two before handing the ball over to Aaron Morder to finish off the game.

The Wildcats also took advantage of some early back-to-back errors by the Indians in the third to have their best offensive production of the game, plating two.

Regardless of some fielding miscues by both teams, they each had some fine glove work to show off.

Things could have been worse for the Wildcats in the home half of the second when Leonard looked to have found some open field in right-center only to see Taylor and Ben Strawser collide and Taylor coming up with the ball to end the frame.

Maybe it was revenge for Leonard making a nice diving play in left field just a half inning prior.

Juniata travels to East Juniata today while Greenwood has a few days off before traveling to James Buchanan on Monday.

Juniata 5, Greenwood 3

Greenwood 102 000 0 — 3 6 2

Juniata 030 200 x — 5 7 2

WP: Jamie Bailer. LP: Aaron Bollinger. SV: Cade Kreider. SO: Bollinger 4, Aaron Morder (G); Bailer 5 (J). BB: Bollinger 2, Morder (G); Bailer 3 (J). 3B: Bryce Leonard (J). MH: Bailer 2-for-3 (J); Morder 2-for-2 (G). RBI: Parker Taylor, Garrett Howell (G); Leonard, Devon Nealman, Zac Piper (J).