MC 15s edged in Babe Ruth tourney

Mifflin County blanked in state final

Sentinel photo by JEFF FISHBEIN
Mifflin County starting pitcher Rylan Bailey throws against Tri-Township in the Babe Ruth 15-year-old state championship game Tuesday in Upper Darby.

UPPER DARBY — This year’s 15-year-old class from the Mifflin County Babe Ruth League has spent three years trying to prove itself.

Although the season ended Tuesday for the boys, it did so only after an act of overachievement for the ages.

The team that has played in the shadow of a two-time Babe Ruth World Series unit found success this summer. The success ended in the state championship game for their age group, 6-0, at the hands of Tri-Township — the only team to beat Mifflin County in the state tournament, hosted by Drexel Hill.

“As 13-year-olds they didn’t do well. Last year they went 0-2 in districts. No one expected us to go very far,” Mifflin County manager Rod Henry said. “Our main goal was to get out of town and play baseball for a week. We came here with no expectations and the kids played well. I’m proud of them.”

He should be. Outside of an earlier loss to the same team — one that’s got a home-field advantage, coming from Bucks County, just the other side of Philadelphia from Drexel Hill — the Mifflin County 15s proved they not only could win at this level, but were among the best teams in the tournament.

In the final, Mifflin County simply ran out of gas.

The breakdown began in the second inning when Brett Young was dealt the first walk his team received, then two straight batters boarded when they were hit by pitches. Three straight base hits followed as Tony DeMichael, Nick Caputo and Cole Fehrman combined to push two runs across.

“We got out of that — it could have been a lot worse,” Henry admitted.

In the fourth inning, an error, a walk and a hit batsman again wreaked havoc on Mifflin County’s defense. At one point, even Tri-Township was perplexed, as a runner left to steal, came back to create a rundown, but a misplayed ball by the defense saved the day for the eventual champions.

Tri-Township had two more base hits that inning — Quinn Moody and Robb Watson — and plated four runs to create the eventual final.

“Walks kill. We let people on base and that’s what causes the confusion,” Henry said. “When you don’t make the plays you’re supposed to make that’s what happens.”

Mifflin County had runners aboard in the first when Brayden Swineford accepted the first free pass of the game and Rylan Bailey singled to advance him. But that was with two outs, and a strikeout ended the frame.

Cody Bickhart benefited from a walk and a wild pitch in the third after a 1-2-3 second, but never got past second base. Swineford walked again in the fourth and Mifflin County got back-to-back base hits from Anson Wagner and Dylan Zellers. Swineford was left on third that time.

The sixth was another 1-2-3 frame before Rylie Bilger came off the bench and was rewarded with a walk by Tri-Township’s third pitcher, Aidan Quinn. Quinn also walked Eli Pennebaker and a pair of errant throws allowed Bilger to make third, but again no runs crossed.

Bailey and Tri-Township starter Fehrman both did well, although Fehrman struck out six, double the number of Mifflin County’s staff. But the game stayed in control when Bailey was on the hill.

“Both started out real strong and then once a couple of errors happened I think Rylan got disgusted,” Henry said.

Caputo was the only multiple hitter of the game, a throwaway single in the seventh that led to a swift throw by Swineford, the Mifflin County catcher, to erase him off the base paths on a steal attempt.

Swineford, Bailey, Wagner and Zellers had Mifflin County’s four hits.