Punching Their Ticket
Pupo delivers winning run for MC
MILROY — The dramatic comebacks are nothing new for Mifflin County, but Saturday’s late-inning rally carried a little extra weight.
Mifflin County trailed 2-0 entering the sixth inning, before a two-run double to left field by Zach Williams tied the game and an RBI single in the seventh by Jaxson Pupo lifted Mifflin County past Tyrone, 3-2, in the Central Penn Division Independent League Final in Milroy. The victory secured Mifflin County (15-3) a spot in the Regional tournament in Hollidaysburg Aug. 7-9.
“These guys like to give us coaches a heart attack by waiting until the last minute to get the bats rolling,” Mifflin County coach John McGonigle joked. “They see a lot of pitches and they make adjustments. As the game goes on, you start to see those adjustments taking place and you saw that today. We had guys in scoring position early and couldn’t do anything with it. [Zach] Williams hit that ball to third that got through and it went from there. These guys pull for each other, they work hard and they find ways to come through every day. That’s all you can ask.”
Williams has served as a utility and bench player for most of the season, but he earned a spot in the lineup on Saturday and came through in a big way, producing two doubles in the eighth spot while driving in two runs.
His ability to learn and continue to grow throughout the season caught the eye of McGonigle.
“He’s a good ball player. He understands the game well,” McGonigle said. “He had some issues this year and we got them figured out and he’s playing well. He’s seeing the ball, hitting the ball and playing with a smile on his face. He’s somebody who can contribute. All these guys on the bench can contribute in different ways and we had a hunch today and we rolled with it. We saw good things out of him on Tuesday at our scrimmage and he picked up where he left off. He’s aggressive on the basepaths. He got himself in scoring position and I like that.”
Tyrone struck first in the third inning, as three straight base hits by Dylan Vipond, Bryce Hunter and Brandon Lucas off Colby Bodtorf put Mifflin County in a jam. Bodtorf limited the damage, although a sacrifice fly by Brandon Grazier and a single to left by Ross Gampe gave Tyrone the early 2-0 lead.
Mifflin County struggled to string baserunners together until the fifth inning, where a lead-off double by Williams set Mifflin County up with a good chance to score. Bodtorf was hit by a pitch with one out before Pupo struck out with runners on first and second to end the threat.
In the top of the sixth, Bodtorf found himself in another tough situation but was able to pitch out of a bases loaded jam with two outs, striking out Nick Lehner for the final out. Cole Knable worked his way out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh to keep things tied, 2-2.
“They have ice in their veins, both of them do,” McGonigle said. “Cole has grown tremendously from where we started this year and we saw it from the beginning. Colby is just being Colby Bodtorf. He’s grinding and working hard and pitching his heart out. You know what you will get out of those guys every time they step on the field.”
Mifflin County’s first runs came on Williams’ double to left. Williams aggressively rounded first base and slid in ahead of the throw for a two-out, two-run double that scored Rylan Bailey and Evan Smith who reached ahead of him.
“It was just kind of trying to not be tense in the batter’s box and staying relaxed,” Williams said. “I was able to hit the ball where it was placed.”
The feeling of coming through?
“It’s breathtaking,” Williams said. “It’s been a fun time with these guys. We’re all here to have some fun and we play our hearts out every game.”
Pupo avenged his strikeout in the fifth with the walk-off single into left field, which scored Bodtorf who reached first after getting hit by a pitch.
“I think we started out pretty slow,” Pupo said. “We only got a few hits this game. I think Zach Williams hit the ball really well today. He came out ready to play. It’s just about hitting the ball in the right situations and getting runners in. I left two runners on base and struckout, but you can’t hold your head and you have to stay loose out there. You can’t go up to the plate with an angry head or you won’t suceed and it worked out pretty well.”
Mifflin County wraps up play in the Central Penn Division with the victory in the final and will now set its sights on the eight-team Regional at Holidaysburg.
Pupo is excited to see what the team can continue to do after working its way through the Divisional tournament as the only team without a loss.
“Everyone picks each other up and there’s not a lot of low heads, which is a big thing in baseball,” Pupo said. “We keep the energy and it pays off. As a team we need to sit back a little bit, see the ball a little bit better and hit up and down the lineup. When we can get that rolling, no one is stopping us.”
Overall for Mifflin County, the Regional is another opportunity for more baseball.
“It’s huge and for some of our older guys it may be the last time they get to play with their friends here so we want to keep things rolling,” McGonigle said. “We’re happy to continue and get a chance to play some baseball up there.”
The postseason means just as much for the players.
“It’s big,” Pupo said. “Like coach said the other night at practice, we won’t always get to play with each other and it may be our last time playing with these seniors. If you’re going to go out with a bang, take it all the way.”
Mifflin County and Mount Union advance out of the Central Penn Division after Mount Union won the regular season title. The Regional begins on Friday.
Mifflin County 3, Tyrone 2
Mifflin County 000 002 1 — 3 6 0
Tyrone 002 000 0 — 2 10 0
WP: Cole Knable. LP: Zach Legars. SO: Colby Bodtorf 5, Knable (MC); Kevin Lehner 5 (T). BB: Bodtorf 3, Knable (MC); Lehner 2 (T). 3B: Brandon Lucas (T). 2B: Zach Williams 2, Ethan Eichhorn, Bodtorf (MC); Bryce Hunter, Legars (T). MH: Williams 2-3 (MC); Hunter 3-4, Lucas 2-3, Ross Gampe 2-4, Dylan Vipond 2-3 (T).