The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

May 13, 2014

High School Baseball: Mifflinburg eliminated from playoffs

MIFFLINBURG — Mifflinburg entered the week facing the possible equivalent of three straight game sevens.

The Wildcats had to win all three of their games, on consecutive days, to earn a District 4 Class AAA playoff berth.

The Wildcats started off Monday’s first do-or-die game, versus Williamsport, looking like they would keep their hopes alive.

Pitcher Andrew Leitzel shut down Williamsport on nine pitches to open the game, and then Mifflinburg took a 1-0 lead on Patrick Crissman’s sacrifice fly to plate Brady Lloyd. The latter opened the game by reaching on a two-base throwing error and advancing on yet another throwing error.

But that was the last of the scoring for the home team as Williamsport rallied for a 6-1 nonleague win.

The Wildcats (7-11) saw possible rallies thwarted by strikeouts (on bad pitches) and a base-running mistake that turned into a double play.

Meanwhile, the Millionaires (12-6) began to spray hits all over the Mifflinburg Intermediate School field, scoring twice in the second, once in the third and three times in the fourth.

Leading the offensive barrage for the Millionaires was a previously slumping Gabe Rader. Williamsport coach Dave Howe bumped Rader to the nine hole to see if he might break out of his slump. What a move that turned out to be as Rader, the center fielder, ripped a pair of doubles in a 3-for-3 afternoon.

The other key to the Millionaires’ win was just as unlikely. Ed Banks made his first start of the season on the mound and battled out of a couple of jams and some wildness to give Williamsport its first complete game in the past few seasons, according to Howe.

“We started out well and then I don’t know what happened,” Mifflinburg coach Tom Church said. “They went up 3-1 and we kind of had the wind go out. Some guys didn’t. Some guys played hard, but I was disappointed in them. I don’t think we played our best today. We left things hurt us and didn’t let it go and turn the page.”

The first promising inning for the Wildcats, in the first, ended when Banks, with two men aboard and a run in, fanned the next two batters to end the inning.

Mifflinburg threatened again in the second, but, again with two men aboard, Banks got a strikeout and then knocked down a line smash up the middle by Lloyd and threw him out at first to end that threat.

It was more of the same in the third as, with runners on first and second and one out, Banks got another strikeout and a 6-4 fielder’s choice.

The fourth inning was a real killer for the Wildcats. After leadoff batter Trey Smith, who doubled in the first, was retired on a close play at first, Austin Walter was hit by a pitch for the second consecutive at-bat. But the inning ended on a double play.

Williamsport scored four of its six runs with two outs.

Church said that was typical of the season. “We are not able to close the door on teams when we have two outs. You’ve gotta make those outs.”

Banks allowed just three base runners the rest of the way, finishing with a five-strikeout three-hitter.

But he flirted with trouble with walks and hit batters. Howe said , “I was close to pulling him out, but, yeah, he did a tremendous job for us.”

Howe added, “(Rader) hits the ball hard. He’s done a nice job for us this year, but we moved him down to the nine hole because he was struggling a little bit.”

Before this loss, Mifflinburg had won four of five to get in position for a playoff run.

“I’m happy with my kids, they just need to clean it up,” Church said. “We need to work on things and make sure we’re ready for next year.

“We already told them these next two games are must wins. They are must wins for our seniors, they are must wins for our program, to go in the right direction for next year. We’re not going out here to lose, we’re not going out here to mess around. We are going out here to win baseball games.”

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