State College's offensive production fluctuated from game to game this season.
The Little Lions were shut out and limited to one run in losses, and they exploded for double-digit runs and scratched together one or two in wins.
“We’ll have a game where we can score a bunch and then we’ll have a game or two where we don’t score much at all,” Little Lions coach Bill Tussey said before his team started the postseason. “Offensively, outside of the top four boys in the lineup, we’ve been a little inconsistent so we’re just going to have to see how that works out here.”
It worked out for State College in its District 6 Class AAAA opener as the top-seeded Little Lions scored just enough in a 5-4 win over Altoona to advance to the championship game. State College (15-5) will now take on third-seeded Central Mountain on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Blair County Ballpark in a rematch of last year’s title game. Central Mountain (10-7) topped second-seeded Mifflin County 4-2 in its semifinal game.
In the 2013 championship game, the Little Lions edged the Wildcats 3-2 in eight innings.
State College put together its best offensive game this season in a 15-4 win over Central Mountain in early May, but Tussey’s expecting another hard-fought game for the championship.
“It certainly helps to be familiar with them,” Tussey said. “We expect a much, much tighter, tougher game tomorrow (Tuesday) than what we had the first time with them.”
The Little Lions recorded 15 hits in the five-inning blowout win over the Wildcats. They scored five runs in 1 2/3 innings off starter Toner Corl in the dominant win. Corl (3-2, 3.00 ERA) is second on the Wildcats with 25 2/3 innings. Caleb Seyler is Central Mountain’s top pitcher, going 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA in 30 innings.
In State College’s six games since the 15-run outburst against the Wildcats, the Little Lions have scored a combined 22 runs.
Tussey has also had to shift State College’s lineup with Brandon Raquet out due to injury. Raquet, who hit second in the lineup much of the year, is batting .340 and leads the team with 12 stolen bases. Tussey moved Derek Van Horn up to hit second, and he delivered in the victory over Altoona.
Van Horn went 2 for 3, scored one run and drove in one to help State College advance.
“He’s been a little bit hot lately,” Tussey said. “Hopefully he can maintain that.”
Tussey said he’s still determining who will pitch for State College.
Tussey could go with Bailey Ishler or Tyler LeBarron, who each pitched in the Little Lions’ opening win on Thursday. He said Alex Garban and Ken Craig will also be available on the mound.
State College is looking to find the right combination to repeat as district champions.
“That would be big,” Tussey said. “The boys have worked hard. I think it would be a great reward for them if they can accomplish it.”