Christian Friberg felt jittery before the State College baseball team’s season opener was postponed Tuesday and Wednesday.
The nerves returned Thursday morning ahead of the Little Lions’ home game against Mifflin County and remained when Friberg took the mound in the fourth inning. The left-hander quickly settled in and pitched four scoreless innings of relief to help State College beat the Huskies 2-1.
Friberg recorded two strikeouts, allowed four hits and trusted his defense to earn the win.
“As long as I throw strikes, my defense has me,” Friberg said.
Never miss a local story.
The Little Lions (1-0) were flawless in the field in the final four innings to protect their one-run lead. State College put together just enough offense in the second inning as Ryan Gess dropped an RBI bloop single into right field to tie the game and Tyson Cooper was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give his team the lead.
The Little Lions finished with five hits and stranded runners on third base in four innings, and Mifflin County (1-1) managed seven hits on a cold day.
“It wasn’t an offensive show, but I didn’t think it would be,” Mifflin County coach Bernie Howard said. “Both teams played great defense, and pitching’s always been a strong suit. We play a lot of 2-1 and 1-0 games between us and State College.”
Mifflin County took the lead on Ty Bodtorf’s two-out, RBI single through the right side of the infield in the first inning. The Little Lions responded with their two-run second inning to take the lead with State College starting pitcher Mason Mellott still on the mound.
Mellott allowed three hits and one run while striking out four and walking one in three innings before being replaced by Friberg.
State College coach Troy Allen said his pitchers are on a 60-pitch limit early in the season, and he planned to use Friberg — one of the team’s starting pitchers — to get the left-hander some innings.
Friberg was anxious to start the season this week, but the Little Lions were forced to wait until Thursday due to the postponement of their game against Central Dauphin two days in a row.
He felt the nerves throughout the school day.
“I was fidgety in my seat a little bit,” Friberg said.
After giving up a single to Max Oburn on his first pitch, Friberg received some help from the State College defense.
Little Lions third baseman Kenny Magnes fielded a slow roller by Andrew Larson and fired to second baseman Kevin Karstetter, who turned the double play as Oburn slid into him.
Karstetter, a freshman, finished with two hits for the Little Lions.
“The kid has been impressive from the moment tryouts started,” Allen said. “I was more impressed that he hung in there when the kid tried to take him out and still made the play. That showed a lot of guts.”
When Karstetter turned the double play, Friberg said the jitters went away.
The left-hander cruised through the final three innings to seal the win on a tough day for hitters.
“I don’t think there was one at-bat that I really had a problem with,” Allen said. “It would be really tough for me to complain about the offense today. They’ve put in some hard work and this kind of day you don’t expect there to be fireworks.”