The State College baseball team sent a message to Mifflin County, as the Little Lions downed the Huskies 5-1 in a battle between District 6 Class AAAA teams on Thursday.
“We play them again right away (Friday) so I don’t know if it meant sending a message or not,” State High coach Bill Tussey said. “I hesitate to say anything about sending a message because the second guy they brought in was a finesse pitcher and we struggled against him. We might see that again tomorrow and that will make for an interesting game. But as for today, we never felt that the game was in doubt.”
Tussey also felt that one big key to the win was getting the early lead to force Mifflin County to play from behind.
“We got baserunners and the boys did a good job of moving the runners up,” he said. “We also had a couple of clutch hits there and certainly getting that four-run lead early put the pressure on them.”
For Mifflin County, big factors in the outcome were the early mistakes that put them behind the 8-ball.
“It wasn’t a bad ball game,” Mifflin County coach Travis Zook said. “Our middle infield made a couple of mistakes on a routine 5-4-3 double play and what hurts is that we make that play 49 out of 50 times but that was the one time we didn’t make it. We also had them hung out to dry on a cutoff play but we made a bad throw home. Giving a team extra outs in a ball game can go a long way in determining the outcome.”
Zook had his ace Peyton Reeseman on the mound, and although he issued five walks in his three innings, his defense didn’t help him.
“(Reeseman) had command issues early and that hurt him,” Zook said. “Getting behind in the count and a couple of two-out walks went a long way in his downfall. Our second pitcher (Ross Torquato) did a great job of working ahead and changing speeds to make them hit his pitch. I don’t think we played badly today. We stung some balls well but a good number of them were hit right where they were (playing).”
Highlighting the Little Lion win was the outstanding pitching effort by Kyle Peterson. The big righthander allowed just one run while scattering five hits, striking out five. Although Peterson didn’t issue a single base on balls, he did hit one Mifflin County batter.
“K.P. did an outstanding job of throwing strikes to let his defense work behind him,” Tussey said. He had a good day of pitching to contact and his defense played well behind him. He did a good job of throwing first-pitch strikes and he wound up 16-for-21 for the game. When you get the lead, that is what we want from our pitchers. He has done a real good job for us in his last four or five outings and I am very proud of him.”
Peterson also pointed out the importance of throwing first-pitch strikes to get ahead in the count.
“That first-pitch strike is very crucial,” Peterson said. “There is a statistic somewhere that says if you get a first-pitch strike your chances of getting the hitter out is like 80 percent. Not only does it put them behind physically, but mentally as well. Focusing on that early in the game really helped me get a few of those strikeouts as well as to get guys to roll over and hit ground balls.”
As for his approach, Peterson said he basically went with what was working best for him.
“I mixed in my splitter a lot today,” he said. “That is a relatively new pitch for me and I have been having good success with it. Going into this game we were all psyched because we have developed a little rivalry with Mifflin County. I was just glad to have the chance to pitch against them here at home. I think that also got my adrenaline flowing a little bit.”
While the Mifflin County defense let Reeseman down early in the game, Peterson was quick to point out what the play of his defense means to him.
“I couldn’t be happier with how our defense has been playing,” he said. “If they don’t play well it makes your work harder as a pitcher, but I have not experienced that at all this year. Our defense has been darn near perfect in every game I pitched this season. That is extremely reassuring to me knowing that they have my back and that I can trust them to make plays behind me.”
While the Little Lions are riding a six-game win streak and are currently sporting an overall mark of 13-3, the Huskies have their backs to the wall in terms of qualifying for the upcoming playoffs at 8-9.
“Our district has a five-hundred policy so we still have two more wins we need to get,” Zook said. “We have four games left and we see these boys tomorrow (Friday) before playing Monday through Wednesday. We had a stretch where we had nine games in nine days so it has been quite a haul for us. The guys are getting wore down a little bit, but somehow we have to find a way to get it done.”