One inning can either go for you, or against you.
For State College, the fourth inning would be key in its 8-5 District 6 Class AAAA semifinals victory over Central Mountain on Thursday.
The Little Lions trailed the Wildcats twice, but just like all season, they were able to come out with a win.
“Thats kind of our M.O.,” State College coach Bill Tussey said. “We just kind of scratch and claw. This team doesn’t give in and I think that is our biggest attribute. I’m proud of them they did a good job today.”
Central Mountain pushed a run across in the first inning, thanks to a sacrifice fly from starting pitcher Zach Skrtich. Skrtich drove in leadoff hitter Dyaln Kerstetter, who started the game off with a single. State College responded in the second inning when designated hitter Harrison Walls connected for a home run.
The Wildcats reclaimed a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning, when Trapper Kunes hit a RBI double scoring Cole Reeder.
The Little Lions (16-5) responded in their half of the inning in a big way.
Sam Plafcan opened the inning by drawing a walk, which was followed up by Walls belting a single down the left field line. Following a strikeout, Chris Boal stepped to the plate and drove Plafcan and Walls in with a double to the left-center field gap. Starting pitcher Bailey Ishler followed Boal by drawing a walk from Central Mountain’s new pitcher Kenny Heverly. Boal was able to advance on two wild pitches during the at-bat to push State College’s lead to 4-2.
After a walk to Ben Shawley, leadoff hitter Brandon Raquet laced a double just inside the left foul line scoring Ishler and Shawley. Raquet was also able to score on the play thanks in part to two Wildcat throwing errors which finished off the scoring for the inning.
“We’re not a great offensive team,” Tussey said. “We didn’t really crush the ball by any stretch but they hustled. Central Mountain made a couple mistakes that they don’t normally make and hustle will do that for you. They took advantage of mistakes and basically took care of the opportunites they had.”
According to Wildcats coach Michael Kramer, big innings have been nemesis towards his team.
“If we go back through our season,” Kramer explained, “and look at most of the losses when we had them big innings hurt us. You got to avoid the big inning and we didn’t avoid it there. Once things started falling, we just kind of fell apart a little a bit and that is uncharacteristic and I wish we could go back and do it again but we can’t.”
Central Mountain (13-7) wouldn’t go away and was able to pull within 7-4, but that would be the closest they would get the rest of the game. State College tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth when Greg Copenhaver hit a sacrifice fly that scored reliever Tristen Ballenger, who led the inning off with a bunt single.
Now the Little Lions advance to the District 6 Class AAAA final and will face Altoona, who defeated Mifflin County 4-3 in 11 innings on Thursday. They also have the opportunity to defend their back-to-back crowns. Tussey knows it won’t be easy but is proud of the fact his team has this chance.
“The kids have been looking forward to that all year,” Tussey said of his team and oppenents, “that was one of their big goals. They are a good, solid fundamental team. I expect the final game will be similar (to what happened today). It will be a scratch it out no holds barred.”