No. 1-seeded Mifflin County brought the wood in a 9-1 win over No. 3 State College in Wednesday’s District 6 Class AAAA championship game at Penn State’s Beard Field, but it was the Huskies’ shutdown of the short ball that ultimately stopped the Lady Little Lions.
After Mifflin County poured in four second-inning runs, State College head coach Mike Harper began to call for his players to show bunt.
“We had to play for one (run),” he said. State College had been forced to replace the two starting bats of seniors Andrea Myers and Abby Allen with younger players after the former tore her ACL and the latter broke her arm last week.
“There wasn’t a whole lot we could do with some of our inexperienced batters,” he said. “We tried to make something happen but we just couldn’t do it.”
The calls came with either an out or two outs against the Lady Little Lions — three also came with runners on third or second and third — and the Huskies were ready to pounce.
Each time a State College batter laid down a bunt, a Mifflin County player hastily absorbed the ball and threw her out. It stopped any momentum the Lady Little Lions were trying to swing their way, and led to eight runners left on base by the end of the game.
“Yeah, we played the small game pretty well,” said Huskies head coach Jack McCurdy. “Very well today, I was really proud of the way they did. …I thought we played extremely well, we’ve practiced that quite a bit.”
Even after a five-run sixth inning from the Huskies, Harper and his team tried to chip away with the short game.
“That was our only shot to get kids on base,” he said. “And you’ve got to take advantage of that. I wouldn’t redo it. That was kind of the game plan going in with some of those kids. (Mifflin County’s) Hannah Ruby is a fantastic pitcher and some of our kids just haven’t seen it. You try to put pressure on the defense. …I’m not sure the outcome would be a whole lot different if they had been up there swinging away.”
McCurdy and his team saw it coming.
“You have to expect that. I think they were just out there trying to put pressure on our defense, you’ve got to make those plays,” he said. “If you don’t, they get momentum. And this whole game is about momentum.”
State College scored its lone run in the fifth inning, after a looping fly ball by Alyssa Shedlock turned into a double when center fielder Taylor McKay lost it in the sun, and Kayla Hawbaker sent Shedlock in for the score with a double to left field.
The Lady Little Lions committed three errors, which helped score Mifflin County runners in the bottom of the sixth. The five-run frame put the game away for good.
Our inexperience showed a little bit tonight. We outhit them, but they took advantage of us holding balls and not being in position.
State College head coach Mike Harper
“Our inexperience showed a little bit tonight,” said Harper. “We outhit them, but they took advantage of us holding balls and not being in position. …That’s a result of just being inexperienced.
“It is what it is, there’s nothing you can do about it. …I’m not making excuses. Mifflin County is a great team, Hannah Ruby is a great pitcher. That team is well-coached. ... They came swinging the bats, too. We got beat. We got beat by a team that was better than us today.”
State College will graduate six seniors and finishes its season 11-9.