---- — By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG -- When asked about it, Mifflinburg coach Steve Ross started to smile a little. He's well aware that so far this year, his Wildcats have struggled a bit getting things going.
"I don't know how to light a fire under their butt to get them motivated enough. I got to keep coaxing them on like, 'C'mon! We're doing okay!'" Ross said.
Ross didn't have to do much coaxing Thursday.
Staring at a 2-0 deficit after two innings, Mifflinburg's bats started to pick up and, sure enough, the Wildcats started to generate some offense.
A four-run third inning and a five-run fifth blew open the game and Mifflinburg cruised to a Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I win against Danville on a cloudy, slightly rainy afternoon.
The Lady Ironmen (1-2, 1-2 HAC-I) started quickly, scoring two first-inning runs. After three consecutive walks loaded the bases, Ericka Heath came through with an RBI-single to shallow left field before Katherine Reedy was walked home to give Danville an early 2-0 lead.
Mifflinburg (3-1, 3-1) didn't threaten in the first two frames but got things going in the third. After a hit batter, error and walk loaded the bases, MacKenzie Kyler came up with an RBI-single to shallow left to bring home Kayla Kline. Molly Davis (3-for-4, 3 RBIs) then singled to center to bring in another two runs and put Mifflinburg ahead.
"Last year I struggled a lot at the plate. So my main goal this year was to focus, get base hits (and) get my average up, because that's one way you can give back to your team is by getting those runs, getting those clutch hits and that's what I aim for," Davis said.
Mifflinburg batted through its lineup in the bottom of the fourth inning. Davis came through big again with an RBI-double to the fence in left field before Tori Hackenberg doubled to deep center to drive in two runs. By the time the third out was recorded in the fourth, the Wildcats had built a convincing 9-2 lead.
"(Davis has) been on a tear here; I think she was coming into this (game) batting .545. She was really tearing it up and (went) 3-for-4 tonight. She's really on fire right now and I'm not changing a thing with her," Ross said with a laugh.
Danville struggled coming up with timely hits when needed, stranding a runner in all but one inning. The Ironmen left the bases loaded twice and abandoned two runners in two other innings.
The Lady Ironmen had runners on the corners in the second with only one out before the next two batters got out. The same scenario evolved in the sixth inning with runners on second and third, but Danville scored a run. Reedy hit an infield single and went to third on a line-drive single along the right-field line by Meghan Dennen. Ally Mullen's groundout scored Reedy to make it a 9-3 game.
Sophomore Hannah Boop threw all seven innings for Mifflinburg and played solid, not giving up a single extra-base hit. She allowed Danville to collect multiple hits in only two innings.
"She's a young girl. She's new (and) she has big shoes to fill, obviously, following Alli Lloyd last year. She's just taking it game by game," Davis said of Boop. "She's such a free spirit about it, but when it comes down to it, she gets absolutely serious about it, which is great as a pitcher. She keeps the intensity up and when we need her to come through, she always seems to do so."
Boop ended the game with four strikeouts and allowed six hits. Mifflinburg, which didn't commit an error in the win, spread nine hits throughout its lineup.
Danville pitcher Leslie Fritz struck out six through four innings before Blaire Keister took over in the fifth inning.