The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


May 27, 2014

High School Baseball: Mustangs right back where they wanted to be

MIDDLEBURG — Ron Flood chooses to look ahead.

He prefers the unknown of the future — where there are things to plan for, stuff to figure out — over the familiarity of the past, where emotions dwell.

In the moments after Friday’s district playoff win, Flood was asked about Midd-West’s long journey back to the championship game.

It was a year ago tomorrow that his Mustangs did the improbable, battling three-time defending champion Jersey Shore through eight scoreless innings of the title game before bowing in the ninth.

The team’s foremost goal was to earn another shot at a district crown, which they did Friday by beating Shikellamy.

At the mention of the achievement, Flood’s eyes welled with tears and he was overcome with pride. At first, the emotion wouldn’t permit him to speak, but it eventually relented just enough.

“The kids played well,” he said through sobs. “It’s what they wanted to do all year long, and they accomplished what they wanted to do.

“They’re just a super bunch of kids.”

Midd-West (14-6) faces Jersey Shore (19-2) again tonight for the District 4 Class AAA championship. First pitch is slated for 7 at Williamsport’s Bowman Field, following the Class A title game.

Asked who he might consider starting on the mound in the rematch, Flood was snapped sober. Tears gone.

Back to business.

The Mustangs had a different reaction to the win.

After starting the season 10-1, a return trip to the district final seemed a foregone conclusion. Then they lost four of their last six games, three on consecutive days, including a shutout at the hands of first-round district opponent Shikellamy.

Friday’s 4-0 win over the Braves, which saw Midd-West back senior Hunter Shuff’s three-hit shutout with nine hits, was just what the doctor ordered for the team’s confidence.

“It’s amazing,” said sophomore Aaron Sharp. “Winning this game was great, but it’s going to be even better (playing) in the district final.”

“When you get that kind of hitting and that kind of playing, you’re going to win — every day,” said Flood. “It’s that simple.”

It’s not coincidence that neither Shuff nor Sharp threw a pitch against the Bulldogs in two league games this season.

Flood didn’t want Jersey Shore to have a first-hand scouting report on his ace pitchers on the chance the teams met in the playoffs.

Bulldogs coach Matt O’Brien took the same tack, opting for arms other than seniors Travis Eiswerth (4-2, 3.26 ERA) and Michael Schoonmaker (3-0, 0.55).

All four pitchers are eligible to throw as many as nine innings tonight.

“I wanted it more than anything,” Shuff said of the Mustangs’ fourth district final berth. They also played for the crown in 2005 (their lone win) and 2007.

“Win, lose or draw, we don’t have anything to be ashamed of,” said Flood. “We don’t have to hang our heads.”

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