Rain, Rams wash away Indians, 4-1
Harper excels, Indians’ bats go cold
MIFFLINTOWN–A glaring problem for Juniata baseball this season has been the inability to come up with big hits in big moments. That same issue plagued the Indians in their 4-1 loss to Penns Valley on Monday.
Juniata had at least one baserunner in five of the seven innings it came to bat, but was unable to push across a run until the bottom of the seventh. Dawson Harper hit a sacrifice fly to right field after the Rams’ closer, Dakota Brodzina walked the bases loaded.
Harper and Josh Bomberger led off the bottom of the first with singles before Rams’ starter Ty Houtz got a pair of strikeouts and a groundball to short to strand the two runners.
In the third, Jace White doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch with nobody out. But again, Houtz got a pair of strikeouts to keep the Indians off the board.
“Same story, different day,” Juniata coach Nick Beward said. “We just can’t buy the big hits right now, when we need them.”
Harper started on the mound for Juniata and continued his stretch of excellent pitching. The Rams got on the board in the second on a booming double to left field off the bat of Maclain Welshans, but were limited to just a run.
Possibly Harper’s most impressive feat of the season came in the third inning as Penns Valley stacked back-to-back singles and a hit by pitch to load the bases with nobody out. The Indians’ pitcher responded by striking out the next two batters and getting a lazy pop up to second to get out of the jam unscathed.
“Dawson pitched really well–good enough to get us a win,” Beward said. “I feel like we can be competitive every single game.”
A huge factor in Harper’s successful escape of the third inning was Indians’ catcher, Seth Laub, who made a number of incredible blocks on a few bouncing, off-speed pitches.
“They can do it and he’ll keep it in front,” Beward said about pitchers’ being able to throw pitches in the dirt with confidence that Laub will make the play. “Mentally, he doesn’t play like a ninth grader.”
In an effort to save Harper’s arm for upcoming games, he was relieved after the fourth inning, allowing one run on five hits, while striking out two. Bomberger took the mound in relief and was greeted rudely by the bats that Harper kept quiet for most of the game.
Penns Valley scored two runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Rylee Brungart and Maclain Welshans and added a run in the sixth on a rain-aided error on the Indians.
With great pitching and slick defense, the Indians have been able to stick around in most of their games this season, but the stigma around their lack of clutch hitting is on the mind of the Indians’ batters, leading them to get antsy and over-aggressive with runners on base.
“Last week, we were competitive in just about every game and we lost in the end,” Beward explained. “We lose our focus and I think we get down on ourselves and get disgusted… One of these days, we’ll get timely hits when we need them.”
The Juniata bats will look to wake up today as they host Upper Dauphin.
Penns Valley 4, Juniata 1
PV: 010 021 0–4-10-0
J: 000 000 1–1-5-1
WP: Ty Houtz. LP: Dawson Harper. SV: Dakota Brodzina. SO: Houtz 6, Brodzina 2 (PV); Harper 2, Josh Bomberger (J). BB: Brodzina 3, Houtz (PV); Bomberger (J). 2B: Mason Lieb, Maclain Welshans, Colby Sweitzer (PV); Jace White (J). MH: Houtz 2-4, Miles Brooks 2-4, Welshans 2-4 (PV); Bomberger 2-4 (J). RBI: Welshans 2, Rylee Brungart (PV); Harper (J).