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Bomberger’s gem propels Indians

Sentinel photo by MIKE GOSS
Juniata’s pitcher Josh Bomberger (21) and second baseman Dawson Harper collide trying to catch a popup.

MIFFLINTOWN — In Juniata’s first game of the season, Josh Bomberger went the distance, throwing seven scoreless innings and allowing five hits in the Indians’ 4-0 win in a Tri-Valley league game against Susquenita on Monday.

Through no fault of their own, the win was Juniata’s first in nearly two years as their 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They showed some rust in the field and were off-balance at the plate, but a huge sixth inning allowed the Indians to escape with a win.

“I knew there were going to be jitters,” Juniata coach Nick Beward said. “Our guys were way, way out front. They were hitting off of their front foot and could not stay back.”

Bomberger dueled with Susquenita starter Derek Gibney as they traded zeroes for the first five innings. Gibney was in total control as the Indians did not get a baserunner past first base until the sixth. Bomberger, however, had to weave his way in and out of trouble in a few innings.

“Give (Gibney) credit,” Juniata coach Nick Beward said. “He took advantage of us getting jumpy on pitches–not being patient and he was popping us up.”

The Juniata starter recorded just a single strikeout and had spotty defense behind him, but was the benefactor of poor base running by the Blackhawks.

In the top of the fourth, Susquenita had runners on the corners with nobody out. Gibney, the runner on first, attemped to steal and took off for second base. Tyler Fisher popped the ball up in the infield, which was caught by Bomberger. Gibney didn’t realize where the ball was and stood on second as Bomberger flipped the ball to Jace White, doubling off Gibney at first and completing the huge double play.

Bomberger got Alex Cotton to fly out to right, stranding the runner at third.

The Blackhawks were poised to plate the game’s first run in the fifth inning as again they put runners on the corners, this time with one out. But Bomberger worked his way out of trouble, getting two infield pop ups to keep the game scoreless.

“We worked ourselves out of so many situations,” Beward said. “We could’ve been down five, or six-nothing will all the runners they had on base. We showed resilience.”

Heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Juniata bats finally woke up and put together their first scoring threat of the game.

A double by White followed a walk to Bomberger to put runners in scoring position with one out. Jordan Dickinson stepped up to the plate and delivered the biggest hit of the game, as he smacked the ball back up the middle, plating a run and giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks chose to intentionally walk Logan Kehler after he reached a 3-0 count to load the bases. Paul Ames popped up to first, which brought Will Orwig to the plate with the bases still loaded and two outs.

Orwig fell behind 0-2 in the count, but put together a fantastic at-bat. The Indians’ third baseman drew a walk which plated another run and put the Indians up, 2-0.

The walk to Orwig chased Gibney from the game, who was replaced by senior Logan Knuth. Dawson Harper stepped to the plate and greeted Knuth rudely, as he singled up the middle to drive in a pair of runs, giving the Indians a 4-0 lead.

“Finally, in the sixth inning there, I said ‘If we’re gonna do it, it’s gotta be now,'” Beward said. “This is where good teams will show up and shine–and we shined.”

Bomberger squashed a two-out Blackhawks rally in the seventh to secure the Opening Day win for Juniata.

“Bomberger did a phenomenal job. He hit a couple of batters, but early in the season, that’s him getting his jitters out,” Beward said. “Like I said, Bomberger did a great job for us… I wasn’t pulling him out. That was his game to finish.”

In the field, the Indians showed a few heads up plays, but also had some miscues that could have proven costly, including ground balls going between legs, pop ups falling in for base hits and players crashing into each other on pop ups.

“I expected us to struggle at the plate some. Defensively, I don’t expect us to struggle and when we saw what was going on, that’s not what we were expecting,” Beward said. “Pitching and defense will take you a long way and the hitting will come around.”

Juniata 4, Susquenita 0

Susquenita 000 000 0–0-5-1

Juniata 000 004 X–4-5-2

WP: Josh Bomberger. LP: Derek Gibney. SO: Bomberger (J); Gibney 4, Logan Knuth (S). BB: Bomberger 2 (J); Gibney 4 (S). 2B: Jace White (J). MH: Jordan Dickinson 2-3 (J); Knuth 2-3 (S). RBI: Dawson Harper 2, Will Orwig, Dickinson (J).

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