By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- Kevin Kline had a sickening feeling the dark clouds overhead meant the end of Lewisburg's sudden rally Wednesday.
He was half right.
Alex Lash did the heavy lifting; the rain simply closed the deal.
Midd-West's Lash notched a strikeout with the tying run on base, ending the fifth inning and the string of four hits that pulled the Green Dragons within 5-3.
In the top of the sixth the rain intensified to a point it stopped play, and then, after a brief delay, ended the game as a Mustangs' victory.
"We had our best hitter up with the tying run on base and just didn't get it done. Then the rain came. I was afraid of that," said Kline, the Green Dragons' first-year coach. "But we did a good job battling back and that's what we're striving for. Never quit."
Lash pitched two-hit ball for four scoreless innings and was one out away from pitching around a leadoff error in the fifth when Lewisburg got rolling.
Nine-hole hitter Mike Cooper pushed a grounder past Mustangs second baseman Aaron Sharp to score Drew Newcomb with the Dragons' first run. Luke Smith then drilled a hit through the left side of the infield, and Jesse Flannery followed with a blistering RBI-single along the first-base line. Mike Fisher then lashed a run-scoring hit past the shortstop to make it 5-3.
The rain became a downpour as clean-up man Joey Gardner went to the plate. He had a hit in his previous bat, a fourth-inning single that ended a string of six Dragons retired.
Gardner fell behind in the count 1-2, then fouled off a pitch while working the count full. Lash got him to swing through a fastball with wind whipping rain from seemingly every direction.
Lash finished with a six-hitter, three strikeouts and a walk.
"I thought he threw real well," said Midd-West coach Ron Flood. "He hasn't thrown for a long time because I've got the two horses (fellow seniors Austin Hockenbrock and Colton Keister) and I've been using them. He threw a real good ballgame."
Midd-West posted its second 5-3 win in as many days, following Tuesday's game at Mifflinburg. The Mustangs (6-5) have won four of five to inch past .500.
"We're starting to peak," said Flood. "Right now we're starting to play real good defense -- we've played without errors for the last three or four ballgames -- and we're starting to hit the ball. They're doing the things that they have to do right in order to win games."
The Mustangs scored two first-inning runs with three straight two-out hits. Lash and Luke Zimmerman reached with singles, and Hockenbrock followed with a screamer to right field that took a wicked hop past charging Erich Kline for a triple.
They scored another pair in the fourth when Shane Connahan led off with a double, Aaron Sharp chopped an infield hit high off the pitcher's glove, and Colton Snook muscled an opposite-field line drive to right -- all before the first out was made.
Lewisburg wasn't able to string together hits as easily.
Smith smoked Lash's first pitch of the game to the gap in left-center for a double that nicked the glove of diving center fielder Connahan. Smith was ultimately stranded at third when Snook made a fantastic diving catch of a Gardner shot on the left-field line for the third out.
Lash needed a total of just 27 pitches to get through the second, third and fourth innings. The Green Dragons (3-7), who hadn't played in a week, gave away three consecutive one-pitch outs at one point.
"Don't swing at curveballs -- that's my philosophy and I've been telling them that, but it must look good to them," said Kline. "You could see, though, as the game went on we started to come around."