Huskies fight hard, fall in state opener
Late Big Macs’ rally downs MC
LORETTO–The Mifflin County Huskies’ 2021 softball season was filled with its fair share of highs and lows. The most notable highs includes the program’s sixth District 6 Class 6A title in an 8-2 drubbing over State College and a 10-2 beatdown of Erie-McDowell in the state tournament play-in the game.
Arguably the lowest low of the season came Monday in the Huskies’ 7-4 loss to Canon-McMillan in the opening round of the PIAA Class 6A tournament, played at Saint Francis University.
The loss eliminated Mifflin County from the postseason, but the Huskies put forward a valiant effort, fighting tooth and nail to get back in a game that could have gone either way.
“That’s what happens when you get to this time of year. They’re not here because they’re an average team– they’re good “ Huskies’ coach Craig Weston said about Canon-McMillan. “We were right there with them the whole time.”
Devanie Condrack took the mound for Mifflin County and was jumped on early by a Canon-McMillan team that was not afraid to play small ball.
Condrack walked Olivia Ulam to open the game, who then advanced to second on a sac bunt and scored on a single to left by Taylor Eckles to give the Big Macs an early 1-0 lead.
The top of the second began the same way, as Condrack walked Elika Mowery to set the table for the Big Macs’ pitcher Lauren Duke, who served a slicing down down the left field line. The ball took a wicked jump into the fence and kicked away, allowing Duke to score from first.
Ellionna Kotar bunted Duke over to third before Ulam smashed a double into the left-center field gap to increase the Big Macs’ lead to 3-0.
“We battled and I think I’ve said that since day one. We’re just gonna keep battling,” Weston explained. “I said that when we walk off that field for the last time, leave it all on the field–and everyone did that. The girls that didn’t get in, they cheered. Our energy was good.”
The Huskies’ bats fed off the team’s energy and pieced together four-straight innings of scoring one run, beginning in the third.
Mifflin County had its turn to play small ball in the third, as Arika Henry walked and was bunted to second by Caitlyn Kick. Lead-off batter Madison Myers came through with an RBI single to right field, driving in Henry and putting the Huskies on the scoreboard.
The Huskies continued to chip away at the Big Macs’ lead in the fourth. Josie Kibe and Mackenzie Burdge both reached base on back-to-back infield singles. Peyton McClure tried to bunt the runners into scoring position, but her attempt was popped up and caught by Duke on the mound, who then fired back to first to double up courtesy runner Audrey Jordan, who ran on contact.
However, Leesha Shilling picked up her teammates and smacked a base hit up the middle to plate Kibe and cut Canon-McMillan’s lead to 3-2.
Alyssa Souders delivered the game-tying blow in the fifth, as she laced an RBI double down the left field line, allowing Gianna Hoppel to score from first. The double chased Duke from the game and Canon-McMillan turned to Brooke Perri to stop the bleeding.
The game was tied and the Huskies seemingly had all of the momentum, but the Big Macs fired right back, scoring two runs in the top of the sixth to retake the lead, 5-3.
Again, the Huskies scratched across another run in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Henry singled to right to bring up Allison Gahagan, who was getting her first at bat of the game. Gahagan fired a base hit into right for a single, but the ball was misplayed by the Big Macs’ right fielder, allowing Henry to score and Gahagan to end up at third.
Myers hit a hard grounder to second, but a nice play by Ulam prevented the tying run to score and got the Big Macs’ out of a jam.
Canon-McMillan added two important insurance runs in the top of the seventh, giving themselves a 7-4 cushion. The Huskies strung together a few quality at bats in the final frame, but were unable to rally.
“I’m just proud of them,” Weston said. “No one wants to lose… but there’s only going to be one team in this bracket that’s gonna end with a win. I would’ve loved for it to be us. But, I’m proud of everything.”
The 2021 senior class left a lasting legacy for the Mifflin County softball program, winning three District 6 titles in their three seasons played. The senior-laden lineup featured six senior starters on Monday: Myers, Hoppel, Souders, Kibe, Shilling and Kick. Condrack, who was the Huskies go-to pitcher will be graduating, as will Gahagan and Jaylyn Moore, who split time starting and getting late at bats off the bench.
“They came every day. They practiced and they set an example for these underclassman,” Weston said. “They got and kept this program heading in the right direction, giving the work ethic that they had.”
Mackenzie Burdge, Payton McClure and Arika Henry were the underclassmen that played in Monday’s game and Weston is hoping a taste of the state tournament is exactly what the younger players need to fuel their fire to make a deep run in the 2022 postseason.
“I said to (the underclassmen) ‘You’ve seen what it takes and you played right with them. We’re good enough to be here and we were good enough to win this game,'” Weston explained.
Canon-McMillan 7, Mifflin County 4
CM: 120 002 2–7-11-1
MC: 001 111 0–4-7-1
WP: Brooke Perri. LP: Devanie Condrack. SO: Condrack 6 (MC); Lauren Duke 2, Perri (CM). BB: Condrack 4 (MC); Duke 3, Perri (CM). 2B: Alyssa Souders (MC); Duke 2, Olivia Ulam, Elika Mowery, Sophie Duke (CM). MH: L. Duke 3-4, Ulam 2-2, Taylor Eckles 2-3, Mowery 2-3 (CM). RBI: Madison Myers, Souders, Leesha Shilling, Allison Gahagan (MC); S. Duke 3, L. Duke 2, Eckles, Ulam (CM).