JERSEY SHORE - Most baseball coaches will tell you that if you execute all three phases of the game, you should come out with a win.
Tuesday afternoon, the Jersey Shore Bulldogs did just that as they doubled up on the Mifflinburg Wildcats 4-2 in a HAC-I contest.
"I just told the guys this was an important win for us because it was our 10th win," Shore head coach Matt O'Brien said. "Our first goal at the beginning of the season was to get into the playoffs. We got out to a lead, we played well and the best things about our game the whole year is that we pitch and play defense. Those two things are going to keep us in every game. We had some runners in scoring position that we didn't get in, but overall, it was a good game for us. It is not too often you see a 4-2 game any more."
Although disappointed with the outcome, Mifflinburg coach Tom Church felt the difference in the outcome was that the Bulldogs executed scoring situations, while his Wildcats didn't make key plays, both offensively and defensively, when they had the opportunity.
"We just told our kids they played well, but we have to make the plays when they are there," Church said. "You have to make the plays defensively and if we make those two key plays, it could have been a 2-1 game or maybe even 1-1."
O'Brien agreed with Church's assessment of the biggest difference-maker in the game.
"When they had runners in scoring position, we did our job by getting big strikeouts and double-play balls," O'Brien said. "When you play error free and throw strikes like we did today, you are going to be in every ballgame."
Situational hitting can be key to winning or losing, and the Shore pitchers kept their guests from putting the ball in play in key situations by recording strikeouts. For the game, Mifflinburg batters struck out nine times.
"At the beginning of the year, we put the ball in play and won those situations," Church said. "Now we aren't winning those situations. We are getting guys in scoring position, but we aren't getting them in. What we need to do is make some adjustments to give us better approaches (at the plate)."
Facing four games in six days, O'Brien used the pitching by committee approach, and the trio of Tellef Notevarp, Caleb Barnhart and Travis Eiswerth combined for a strong effort.
Notevarp worked three innings and allowed the first Mifflinburg run, Barnhart kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard in his two innings of work and Eiswerth closed things in the sixth and seventh. Barnhart was credited with the win, while Eiswerth earned the save.
"The biggest thing with them is that I wanted to keep them as fresh as possible," O'Brien said. "I don't want to overwork them because first and foremost their health is the most important thing. We want to be lined up as best as we can be. When you play Montoursville, Milton, and Danville in four days, it is tough to line anything up so we want to keep them as healthy and rested as possible."
Leading the 10-hit Shore attack at the plate were Colton Potter and Chris Glunk with three hits apiece. Potter finished 3-for-4 with three singles and a run, while Glunk was 3-for-3, also with three singles and a run.
"I am finally getting back into it after a little slump," Glunk said. "You have to stay focused and keep your head in the game when you aren't hitting. There are a lot of games left, but we are excited to be going to the playoffs."
Although Glunk and Potter led the Dawgs offensively in the win, O'Brien likes that his players have spread the wealth around throughout the lineup.
"He (Glunk) had a good day, but the biggest thing for us is that it is a different guy every day," O'Brien said. "That is important for us because it speaks to the depth we have in our lineup from top to bottom."
Shore took the initial lead with a single run in the first inning on singles by Potter and Kaiden Brungard followed by a RBI single to center by Ryan Koch.
Mifflinburg tied the game at 1-all with a run in the top of the second, but Shore took the lead for keeps with a pair of runs in the third.
Koch was hit by a pitch and Galen Greider, Zach DePasqua and Glunk put together three straight hits for the two runs.
The Wildcats crept a little closer to the Bulldogs with a single run in the sixth, but Shore tallied an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on singles by Glunk and Potter followed by a sacrifice fly to center off the bat of Blake Musser.
Although happy with where his team is at this point in the season, O'Brien feels that his club still has a lot of things to work on if they are turn their potential into success.
"We have so much to correct, but I just told the guys that we also have so much potential on tap and I think it is just more of a mental attitude that we have to take on the field every single day if we are to be successful," O'Brien said. "We have to be able to step on a team when they are down and today, we left the bases loaded twice in the first three innings or this game could have been a no-doubter. If you allow teams to hang around, they can sneak one out on you."
Heartland Conference Baseball
JERSEY SHORE 4,
M 010 001 0 - 2 5 2
J 102 001 X - 4 10 0
M: Ryan McNally and Logan Cooper. J: Telief Notevarp, Caleb Barnhart (4), Travis Eiswerth (6) and Ryan Koch. WP - Barnhart. LP - McNally. Save: Eiswerth. 2B: M, Dakota Noll.