---- — By Eric Shultz
For The Daily Item
HUGHESVILLE -- Milton held off a late rally from Danville to keep its lead, one inning from victory.
The team then tacked on three insurance runs for good measure and won, 8-4, in an American Legion elimination game Tuesday. With the victory, Milton earned a berth in the Region V tournament.
Despite the number of runs, the game's first four innings did not feature much offense. Each team plated one run through four frames, with both Milton starting pitcher Mark Artley and Danville starter Mason Fausnaught keeping the opposing bats rather quiet.
"He was hitting spots," said Milton coach Dave Byers about Artley. "Even a lot of pitches that were called balls were close. I'm not saying they were strikes, don't get me wrong there, but he was making them look and try to fish maybe a little bit. So he seemed to be in complete command for a long time."
Then the fifth inning came, and Fausnaught lost his control just long enough for Milton to capitalize.
After striking out Tylor Moyer to start the fifth, Fausnaught allowed three consecutive walks. The first man on, Jarred Fogleman, was almost caught stealing before a pitch, but the throw to second went into the outfield to keep the inning at one out.
With the bases loaded, Damian Moyer hit a high chopper past third base to score two runs. Brady Chappell followed with a two-RBI hit of his own: a double ripped into left field.
Byers said Milton was fortunate everything happened how it did on Moyer's hit.
"The infield grass is thick and it takes everything down," Byers said. "But he hits in in the dirt and over the kid's head, who's playing in with the bases juiced, that too."
Artley continued to keep Milton in the lead with his pitching until he had a rough inning of his own in the sixth.
After Danville scored a run on a wild pitch in the fifth, it trailed 5-2 in the sixth. Two ground outs started the team's turn at the plate, and it appeared the side might be retired in order.
Then Artley started missing the plate, giving Danville a chance to close the gap. He hit two batters and allowed a walk in between them to load the bases.
In the next at-bat, Zach Brent nearly hit a ground ball into left field to move the runners, but it was ruled foul. But he ultimately earned a two-run double on a harder hit that reached the left field wall.
"He crushed that ball. That ball was smoked," said Danville coach Harold Albertson.
Even with the lead in doubt, Byers kept his starter on the mound.
"He didn't want to come out," Byers said. "When I went out and talked, he says, 'I got it.'"
Artley ended the inning with a strikeout, and Milton saw its first three batters reach base to start the seventh. Every batter had a turn at the plate in the frame, extending the lead to four again.
Danville could not find another rally in it, only seeing lead-off man Garrett Krum reach base in its final inning at the plate.
The loss ended the Danville's summer, but Albertson remained positive about the entire season after the game.
Albertson said he told his team that it was one of the best summers he had, because he originally did not expect to make it so far due to how young it was.
"To have the kids pull together and do what they did just made it phenomenal," Albertson said. "It was just a fun summer working with them, and it was just great."