BEECH CREEK — What a difference a year makes.
Twelve months after the Mifflinburg 8-9-10 softball all-stars made a run to the Section 3 tournament, that same squad is a year older and wiser and it showed in the Wildcats’ 11-0 victory over Towanda in the first round of this year’s competition.
The Wildcats will now face Clinton County in second round action at 5:30 p.m. today at Lock Haven Field.
“I think once we got the jitters out, they played well,” Mifflinburg head coach Heath Stewart said. “This is a special group. This is the second year in a row that we’ve gone to Sectionals and they kind of knew what to expect. Once we got going, they definitely got going.”
Mifflinburg staked starting pitcher Taylor Stewart to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Kinley Seebold swiped home while Towanda was returning the ball to the mound.
It was a common theme as the Wildcats continually took extra bases on Towanda’s defense — most notably during throws back to the pitcher — and the constant pressure applied by Mifflinburg caused Towanda to make more than a couple of mistakes with the ball.
When Stewart did take the mound in the bottom of the first, she was literally unhittable.
In fact, Stewart continued to maintain the unbelievable pace she established during Mifflinburg’s run to a District 13 title.
In that tournament, Stewart threw a three inning, eight strikeout perfect game in her first appearance against Warrior Run and in the Wildcats’ second showdown with the Defenders, Stewart combined with Maggie Rubendall to throw a no-hitter in the championship game.
On Wednesday, Stewart mowed down Towanda hitters one after the other en route to a 13-strikeout masterpiece in which she again did not allow a hit.
“She only has two modes, she’s either in the zone or she’s off and she was in the zone tonight,” Stewart said of his daughter’s performance on the mound. “She feels really comfortable around these girls. When she takes the field, she knows these girls have her back.”
Mifflinburg scored a run in every inning but the fourth and pounded out 12 hits in the win. Anna Pachucki and Seebold both had three hits for Mifflinburg. Brooke Gessner was 2-for-3 with an RBI double and Chloe Showalter was 2-for-2 with a double and a triple in the Wildcats’ victory.
“They’re more experienced and they put in a lot more work over the course of the year,” Stewart said of his team’s postseason success in 2019. “The parents really got on-board with me and they put the work in, I think that’s the difference.”
Section 3 Tournament
Blaine W. Kunes Memorial Park, Beech Creek
Mifflinburg 131 033 — 11-12-0
Towanda 000 000 — 0-0-1
WP: Stewart LP: Vargason
Mifflinburg hitters: Anna Pachucki. 3-for-4, three singles, two runs scored, RBI; Kinley Seebold, 3-for-3, three singles, run scored, RBI; Avery Reidsome, walk, run scored; Brooke Gessner, 2-for-3, double, run scored; Taylor Stewart, run scored, RBI; Aubrey Fluman, 1-for-3, single, run scored; Chloe Showalter, 2-for-2, double, triple, two runs scored; Maggie Rubendalll, 1-for-2, single, walk, run scored, RBI; Olivia Fetterman, walk, run scored.
Towanda hitters: Caedence Wells, HBP (2); Payton Perry, walk.