By Todd Stanford
For The Daily Item
McALISTERVILLE -- Just when you thought the race for the Tri-Valley League title couldn't get any tighter.
Upper Dauphin, the three-time defending league champ, kept itself in contention Friday afternoon. Ian Buffington threw seven strong innings, Payton Kennerly had a huge day at the plate, and Mac Ney scored the winning run in the sixth for a 6-5 victory over the host Tigers.
"We knew that we were probably going to see their best today," Trojans coach Ryan Lentz said. "I asked who wanted the ball for us. (Buffington) is the guy that stepped up."
Upper Dauphin improves to 7-2 in the TVL with the win (9-4 overall), while East Juniata falls to 6-2 (8-2 overall). Counting Halifax and Newport, there are now four teams in the league with two losses or fewer.
"We need to win out," Lentz said. "It's going to be a tight race."
Buffington fanned nine batters and walked four while yielding seven hits -- only one for extra bases. He faced the minimum in four of the seven innings.
"His fastball moves a little bit," Lentz said. "And he had his curveball working today and he throws a good changeup. It's just a matter of mixing it up."
Kennerly was the only batter on either side with three hits. He also knocked in two runs.
"I'm more of a fastball hitter," Kennerly said. "I kept my head on the ball and just swung away."
"Payton Kennerly came through for me," Lentz said. "He's a kid that I like. He could be in the four-hole before it's all said and done."
Nick Lorenz went the distance and took the loss for East Juniata. He struck out six and walked seven.
"(Lorenz) settled down," Tigers coach Tim Brubaker said. "The first few innings he was a little wild. ... But he and (catcher Ryan Stuck) found the zone and (Lorenz) found a rhythm later in the game."