WILLIAMSPORT — Mifflinburg head coach Ron Hernandez knew his team would be in for a dogfight when the Wildcats faced Jersey Shore for the District 4 Class 4A championship on Friday.
Hernandez’s premonition proved correct when the Bulldogs plated a couple of runs in the fifth inning to tie the game at 2.
But instead of getting down on themselves, Mifflinburg’s players just went back to work by putting the bat on the ball and playing good defense.
What ensued were single runs scored by Mifflinburg in both the fifth and sixth innings, and the Wildcats held on for a 4-2 victory over Jersey Shore at Elm Park to claim the team’s second District 4 title in three years
“It was a hard-fought game and we knew it was going to be. Jersey Shore is a heck of a team and we always play them tough. We knew it was going to be a dogfight, and that’s what it was and we expected that,” said Hernandez, whose team bounced back to win the title after falling in the Class 3A quarterfinals to Lewisburg last season.
Tough losses like last year’s have a way of lingering in the back of players’ minds for a long time, and it was the driving force behind the Wildcats’ title on Friday.
“That feels really good (seeing the girls come back to win districts). That’s what they were working for all year,” said Hernandez. “They worked hard during the offseason, they didn’t like what happened last year, and all of their hard work paid off.”
After struggling against Mifflinburg pitcher Vanessa Martin through the first four innings, No. 2 Jersey Shore (15-6) broke through with a two-run single by Alyssa Stover in the fifth to tie the game at 2-all.
Instead of letting their nerves take over, which would’ve made matters worse, Martin and her defense collectively took a deep breath to settle down and regroup.
“It was nerve-wracking, but I realized that if we got nervous we will fall apart,” said Martin. “We took a deep breath, looked at each other (and said), ‘All right, it’s a 0-0 game. Let’s score some more runs.’”
The No. 1-seeded Wildcats (17-4) did just that as Libby Whittaker reached on an error to plate Delaney Good with the go-ahead run. Good led off the fifth with a double before advancing to third on a fielder’s choice hit into by Brook Karchner, who would go on to finish with a 2-for-4 day.
It was the second double of the game by Good, the Wildcats’ junior leadoff hitter, as well as her second run of the game.
“I really just wanted to get on base for my team and just start it off, because we needed runs,” said Good, who finished the game 2-for-3. “(Winning the title) doesn’t feel real, because we worked so hard to get here. Last year was a rough year, obviously, and just to work hard and get here is really nice.”
And then in the sixth, Mifflinburg put an insurance run on the board with another RBI by Whittaker — this one in the form of a sacrifice fly to left that plated Hailey Foresman to give the Wildcats a 4-2 lead.
Foresman hit a one-out double before she advanced to third on a Karchner single to left, which set the stage for Whittaker’s deep sac fly.
“I came up to bat in the (sixth) inning, and my coaches were like we need four runs now, and I was like, ‘All right, well it sounds like I came in with more confidence than I usually have,” said Foresman who finished with a 2-for-3 day. “So I was like, ‘I’m going to swing at the first pitch, and then I was like, heh, it worked.’”
Although she didn’t have a hit in the game, Whittaker still provided the runs Mifflinburg needed to pull out the win.
“Honestly, I was just swinging hard and trying to do what I could,” said Whittaker. “It helped that Delaney and Brook got on base before me, so that kind of motivated me, like, okay they got on so I got to hit them in.”
Those late runs did a world of good for Martin, who settled back down after the two-run fifth. She only gave up one hit and a walk in the final two innings to get the complete-game win.
“Yes, it’s always nice to be up more than one run. I’m so glad when my team can hit so well, especially when I can’t, and it feels good,” said Martin, who also struck out six in the contest. “It does feel good when you’re not hitting so well. I want to pitch well, because if I’m not swinging the bat very well I need to help out on defense as much as I can, and my team helped me with that.”
Back-to-back doubles by Good and Karchner, along with a sacrifice fly to center by Jaden Keister staked Mifflinburg out to a 2-0 lead in the first, and it provided the necessary spark the Wildcats needed to come away victorious.
Now, the Wildcats will play District 2 champ Scranton Prep in the first round of the PIAA playoffs on Monday at a site and time to be determined.
“The start was great for us. We got on the board early, and you kind of know you are going to have an inning where you have some issues, and that’s what happened. We gave up two runs and it started a whole new game,” said Hernandez. “Jersey Shore is a strong team and they weren’t going to lay down. When we came out of the fifth with Jersey Shore only tying the game, it was actually a win for us. Hey, we’re good and we can still go and we still have our at-bats. So it was okay in the dugout, and the mood was like — the girls didn’t give up.”
District 4 Class 4A Championship
at Elm Park, Williamsport
Mifflinburg 4, Jersey Shore 2
Jersey Shore000020 0 — 2-7-2
Mifflinburg200010 1 — 4-7-0
Kylie Russell and Alyssa Stover. Vanessa Martin and Vanessa Boop.
WP: Martin. LP: Russell.
Jersey Shore hitters: Daytona Wentzel, single, walk, run scored; Arizona Shreck, walk, run; Stover, single, RBI; Hailey Stetts, 2-for-3, walk; Lexi Schuler, double; Maddie Herman, single; Carolyn Wacker, single.
Mifflinburg hitters: Delaney Good, 2-for-3, 2 doubles, walk, 2 runs scored; Brook Karchner, 2-for-4, double, RBI, run; Libby Whittaker, 2 RBI; Kira Hackenberg, single; Hailey Foresman, 2-for-3, double, run; Jaden Keister, RBI.