NEW BERLIN — Even though his determined Mifflinburg squad knew how critical Wednesday night’s scrap was, and that snaring a positive result was a must, manager Glenn Miller didn’t offer a lengthy speech heading in.
Instead, Miller’s concise yet effective message was simple.
“We told them Monday night, ‘Let it fly, play loose,’” Miller said, referring to his post-game chat following Mifflinburg’s conquest of Danville in the elimination bracket final.
“We didn’t have to do much.”
Scoring nine times in the opening inning — Miller’s side sent 13 batters to the plate in the first — Mifflinburg parlayed its early outburst into a 10-3 victory over Selinsgrove at steamy New Berlin Recreation Complex.
Zeb Hufnagle’s two-out, three-run single punctuated Mifflinburg’s stinging salvo as Miller’s bunch parlayed four hits, three walks, two hit batsmen, one sacrifice fly and one Selinsgrove miscue into a comfortable cushion that easily held up.
“It was fun to watch,” Miller added.
Hufnagle also kept Selinsgrove’s attack off-balance by scattering seven hits, walking two and fanning six while firing the first 5 2/3 innings. Ethan Shoemaker yielded two hits, but was able to get the final four outs as Mifflinburg closed out the win.
Nate Chambers and Aaron Bolick also chipped in with run-scoring singles as Mifflinburg (4-1) pocketed a decisive victory, and forced another meeting in New Berlin at 5:30 p.m. Friday night.
Tucker Teats collected three hits, including a pair of doubles, and drove in two runs for Selinsgrove (2-1), which opened the five-team event by subduing Mifflinburg 3-1.
On that particular night, Mifflinburg generated plenty of opportunities yet stranded eight runners while going 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. In the first inning alone, Miller’s crew was 4-for-5 while walking three times and getting hit twice.
“The ball’s bouncing our way right now,” Miller said. “As long as we’re playing loose and having fun, I can’t ask for more than that.”
Already ahead 6-0 when Hufnagle strode to the plate for the second time in the opening inning, that lead grew even larger when his soft liner fell in front of diving center fielder Josh Domaracki and skipped behind him. All three runners aboard rushed home.
“Center fielder laid out and it got under his glove,” said Hufnagle, who walked, struck out looking and reached on an error in his four trips. “We got fortunate on that one.”
“It was one bad inning,” Selinsgrove’s Shawn Felty remarked. “After that, we settled in and kept them off the scoreboard. We knew they were a good team. Top four hitters are very strong. So, from that perspective, we’ve got to come ready to play on Friday.”
All of those fireworks detonated after Mifflinburg short-circuited a threat in the top of the first by turning a slick 1-3-2 double play. Teats initiated things by roping a one-out double and swiping third on Hufnagle’s first delivery to Jake Anders.
Moments later, Hufnagle gloved Anders’ comebacker and took a look at third before firing to first for the second out. And when Teats took off for home, first baseman Lucas Kurtz uncorked a throw home to Shoemaker that was just in time to get the tag down.
“That was big,” Miller said. “We’re playing great defense. We’ve got kids that can pitch and we know we’re not a dominant staff. But we throw strikes and play defense, make all the routine plays. Make one great play a game — and (tonight) we made a couple.”
“We kept them from scoring there,” Hufnagle added. “That boosted our confidence and we all got hyped up, ready to get the bats going.”
While Selinsgrove pulled one back in the third on Domaracki’s run-scoring groundout and banked two more runs in the fifth on Teats’ two-out double, Mifflinburg’s healthy output in the opening frame proved to be way too much.
Mifflinburg added another run in the fifth when Gage Ritter singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on an error. Miller’s outfit flashed more leather in the seventh, turning a 3-6 double play that all but defused another threat.
Several moments later, Hufnagle squeezed an infield pop-up for the final out of the game, setting up Friday’s all-or-nothing encounter.
“I told them it’s another baseball game,” Miller said. “You guys, we control what we can control, have fun and let it fly. We’ll see what happens.”
DISTRICT 13 TOURNAMENT
at New Berlin Rec Park
MIFFLINBURG 10, SELINSGROVE 3
Selinsgrove 001`020`0 — 3-9-2
Mifflinburg 900`010`x — 10-5-0
Sylvan Martin, Jake Anders (1), Ben Gearhart (3), Max Maurer (3) and Mark Pastore; Zeb Hufnagle, Ethan Shoemaker (6) and Shoemaker, Jarrett Miller (4). W-Hufnagle; L-Martin.
Selinsgrove: Tucker Teats 3-for-4, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, 2 stolen bases; Andrew Gephart 2-for-2, double; Gearhart 1-for-1, run, double; Maurer 1-for-1, run; Caleb Hicks 1-for-2; Mikey Felty 1-for-2, run.
Mifflinburg: Hufnagle 1-for-3, run, 3 RBIs; Nate Chambers 1-for-3, run, RBI; Aaron Bolick 1-for-3, run, RBI; Logan Smith 1-for-2, run; Gage Ritter 1-for-1, run, SF, RBI; Shoemaker 0-for-1, 2 runs, 2 HBP, RBI; Miller 0-for-2, 2 runs.