MILL HALL - After losing a tough 8-5 decision to State College a couple of weeks ago, all the Central Mountain baseball team wanted was one more chance to square off against the Little Lions.
"We fell behind early against them the last time and although we made a comeback, it wasn't enough to pull out a win," Central Mountain manager Mike Kramer said following a game last week. "I really felt that if we could get some good pitching and play good defense that we could scratch out a couple of runs and get a win."
Although it didn't look good at times, Kramer was right about his team's chances as the Wildcats scratched and clawed at the Lions until they walked off the field with a hard-fought 7-6 victory.
Central Mountain’s Brad Walker tags out a State College baserunner yesterday in Mill Hall.?CM?won 7-6 and will advance to the semifinals of the Class VI-IX district playoffs. Below, Central Mountain celebrates thier victory.
"That was just a great ball game," Kramer said. "They scored, we answered, they scored again and again we answered. I am really proud of my team for not giving up. They showed a lot of fight inside today which was nice to see. We just have to continue to do that."
State went on top with a pair of runs in the first inning, but the Wildcats answered right back with three in the bottom of the inning. Central Mountain took advantage of a hit batsman, three walks and a State College error as the only hit of the frame belonged to Luke Wise with a leadoff single.
The Little Lions scored a run in the third to deadlock the game at 3-all, and two innings later, they broke open a 6-3 lead on a three-run double by Saige Jenco.
Down again, but certainly not out, the Wildcats sent eight men to the plate and made a lot of things happen in the bottom of the fifth.
Von Walker drew a base on balls, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a RBI single to left by Ryan Hill. Robby Nicodemus singled to right and Kyle McGregor moved Hill to third and Nicodemus to second with a neatly executed sacrifice bunt.
Alec Quiggle "juiced" the bases when he was plunked with a pitch from Mike Finlan who was replaced by Tim Scholly, setting the stage for the biggest noise of the game from the smallest Central Mountain player, pinch-hitter Dylan Kerstetter.
With the game on the line, Kerstetter picked on Scholly's third offering and lined it inside the leftfield line for a two-run double, chasing Hill and Nicodemus across the plate to tie the game at 6-all.
"That is what his call was there today," Kramer said about Kerstetter never having struck out all season. "He puts the ball in play and we were in a situation where we had runners in scoring position. Coach (Tyler) Barth was adamant about him being able to put the ball in play so at that point, we felt that going with him was our best option. I am just very happy for him to be able to get his first varsity hit and how much bigger setting could have it happened in than in a playoff game against State College. I am very happy for him."
With Quiggle at third, Jonny Wise grounded out unassisted to Lion first baseman Cam Walls, but that groundout allowed Quiggle to scoot home with what would be the eventual winning run.
Von Walker, who worked the first six innings, set the Lions down 1-2-3 in the sixth, and when he tired in the seventh, Phil Holter came on to retire three straight State batters to put the lid on the Wildcat win.
"Von is a true competitor," Kramer said. "I'll put him out there anytime because he just wants to compete. He has a good arsenal of pitches and maybe they weren't all going over (the plate) today, but he had command of enough of them to be effective. When you look in his eyes and see the determination he has to battle, it makes it tough to take him out of the game."
The Lions stranded 10 runners on the base paths, a combination of good defensive plays at crucial times and some clutch pitching by Walker.
"I can remember Bradley Walker making some nice plays, Jonny Wise made some nice plays and Ryan Hill made a huge play for us with a strong throw to third base," Kramer said. "That is the type of defense we prided ourselves on early in the year and it is good to see them still playing that way at this point of the season."
With the win, the Wildcats advance to the District VI Class AAAA semifinals to face top-seeded Mifflin County. That game will be played Monday afternoon on the Mifflin County field with a first pitch set for 4 p.m.
"We battled with them earlier in the year and it was a one-run game," Kramer said. "As for facing them again, I expect the game type of fight you saw from us today. I am glad that we were able to get into the heat of battle right away with a win under our belt, we are going to be rested and we will be ready to go."
Class AAAA Baseball
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN 7, STATE COLLEGE 6
SC 201 030 0 - 6 10 1
CM 300 040 x - 7 5 0
SC: Spencer Bivens, Mike Finlan (1), Tim Scholly (5) and Jason Costa. CM: Von Walker, Phil Holter (7) and Ryan Hill. WP - Walker. LP - Finlan. 2B: SC, Saige Jenco, Jared Dailey, Darian Herncane. CM, Dylan Kerstetter.