By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- Part of the final result between Midd-West and Mifflinburg was the play on the field, and part was debunking the myth about the third time being a charm.
The Mustangs had beaten the Wildcats in their previous two meetings this season en route to the second seed in the district playoffs, while the Wildcats won their way to the No. 3 seed.
Mifflinburg was looking to turn the tables and show that the only meeting that truly matters is the last, with the season and district championship hopes on the line.
Mustangs senior right-hander Austin Hockenbroch had other ideas.
Hockenbroch outdueled fellow righty Andrew Leitzel as the Mustangs held on for a 2-1 victory in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals at Bowman Field in Williamsport.
"We knew coming in it was going to be tough," Mustangs coach Ron Flood said. "I give that Leitzel kid a lot of credit; he pitched a good ballgame. I was pleased with my kids. I thought Hockenbroch threw an excellent ballgame."
In a tight game one play often proves the difference, and, in this case, it was Luke Zimmerman coming through with a two-out single for the Mustangs to break a scoreless tie. The Mustangs loaded the bases for Zimmerman and he laced a single past Mifflinburg's Dillan Weikel at third.
"We played great defense," Wildcats coach Tom Church said. "We just gave up two runs early and we couldn't get them back. That's baseball."
In the top of the fourth, the Wildcats came out swinging after falling behind. Three straight singles to start the inning quickly swung the momentum in their favor, and Brady Lloyd scored on a single by Oakley Whitesel. With Zach Aurand prepared to bunt to move the runners, Hockenbroch induced a short pop-up to himself and threw to second for a double play. Whitesel was later caught stealing to end the inning.
"(The defense) really pulled through and had my back after that," Hockenbroch said.
Safely out of the fourth-inning jam, Hockenbroch went back to work mowing down the Wildcats hitters. In the fifth, the Midd-West hurler struck out the side, retiring the first two with three pitches apiece.
Refusing to go down without a fight in the late innings, the Wildcats got consecutive one-out singles from Aurand and Nate Lynch. However, with the way Hockenbroch was dealing, the threat was temporary. Hockenbroch sat Weikel down with a called third strike, and retired Patrick Crissman on a groundout to second to end the game.
From the opening half-inning, the matchup had the makings of a classic pitchers' duel with Hockenbroch trying to extend his career and Leitzel entering the game having allowed just three free passes the entire season.
The Wildcats threatened in the first as Lloyd reached on a single with two outs and stole second. He moved to third on a wild pitch but was stranded when Hockenbroch induced a pop-up.
Mifflinburg played small ball in the second after Whitesel reached base on an error. Again, Hockenbroch worked out of trouble to keep the game scoreless.
"Everything pulled together," Hockenbroch said.