Sometimes all it takes is one big inning and that inning was the sixth on Thursday afternoon.
For State College, its defense in the top half of the inning that set things off for its turn at the plate.
The Little Lions (3-1) turned a bases-loaded jam into a 1-2-3 double play and didn’t give up a run, which then fueled a four-run inning that saw every batter come to the plate in an 8-2 victory over Cumberland Valley in a Mid Penn Commonwealth division game.
“To be honest, I think that was the turning point of the game,” State College coach Bill Tussey said. “We got the key double play there in the sixth, that was a huge lift for us. Bases loaded, nobody out, in high school you’re lucky to get out of that giving up just one run let alone giving up nothing.”
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Tussey couldn’t have been more right.
After pitcher Oliver Dailey loaded the bases with three straight walks, Tussey replaced him with Bailey Ishler, who went to work right away. Ishler got the Eagles’ Alex Staton to hit a chopper back to the mound. Ishler connected with catcher Sam Plafcan for the force at home and Plafcan finished off the play by throwing Staton out at first.
“It felt awesome,” said Ishler, who once the inning was finished gave a big scream walking towards the dugout. “It was one of those where you come in and you’re put into a tough situation but I knew what I had to do. I trusted my defense and just put the ball over the plate.
“We lacked energy a lot of the game. I feel like that double play kind of was like, ‘All right, we got this guys and our offense broke out.’”
The Little Lions did indeed break out their bats on a blistery afternoon in the bottom half of the inning.
Chris Boal and Dalton Barger started the inning with walks. Evan Moerschbacher reached base on a Cumberland Valley error, on which Boal scored after advancing to second on a wild pitch during Barger’s at-bat. Barger then scored on a sacrifice fly from Brandon Raquet to push State College’s lead to 6-1.
The Little Lions’ leadoff hitter, Caleb Walls, lined a single to straight-away center. After a sacrifice fly from Tyler Hall scored Moerschbacher, Chris Adams hit a dribbler to third and legged out a single for one of his team-leading three hits. Plafcan followed with one of his two hits, driving in two of his game-high three RBIs. Adams and Plafcan were the lone players to have multi-hit games.
“Offensively, it took us a while to get going,” Tussey said. “Defense bailed us out. Pitching came through in spots, which was huge but we also gave up six free baserunners.”
State College starting pitcher Kyle Peterson was solid, giving up one run on three hits while striking out seven and handing out two walks. His run came to an end in the fourth inning. He used his offspeed pitches effectively in the winning effort.
“Today, I really coupled the changeup with my fastball and that seemed to be working really well,” Peterson said. “That change of speed in this weather really had them off balance.”
The Eagles (2-3) were able to get runners aboard via free passes and hits but just couldn’t get them across home plate. They stranded five batters in the game.
“We just stranded a bunch of guys and it became a trend,” Cumberland Valley coach Levi Mumma said. “We just didn’t come up with a big hit today. Credit goes to them (State College). They made the pitches and the plays to get us out.”
Mumma felt Peterson’s height on the mound was big as well as his pitching.
“Kyle is a big presence,” Mumma said. “When he is hitting his spots, he is one of the best in the league for sure. Some college is going to get some big old dude that’s going to be a workhorse for them some day soon. He did a good job keeping us off balance. He threw hard but threw a really nice changeup a couple of times. He is a really good pitcher and like I said, one of the best in the league.”