MILTON — Line Mountain head coach Sam Strause admits that his baseball team has been struggling lately when it comes to putting runs on the board — especially late in the season.
The Eagles got out to a slow start in Friday’s nonleague game at Milton, but once they got going there was nothing the Black Panthers could do to slow them down.
Line Mountain scored five runs in the fifth inning before it plated two big insurance runs in the seventh, as the Eagles took a 13-9 victory at Milton Area High School.
“We scored 18 runs against East Juniata (an 18-11 win on April 1), but other than that we had struggled a little bit offensively lately,” said Line Mountain coach Sam Strause. “Today, the last game of the season it was a good time for (the offense to produce), so it ends things on a good note.”
The win by Line Mountain (7-13) puts a sour end to Milton’s season. The Black Panthers, who honored their five seniors prior to the game — Brandon Feltman, Philip Davis, Bryce Gower, Kaleb Baker and Anibal Rodriguez — end the 2019 campaign with a 6-13 record.
“I’m proud of the way my guys battled. I’ve been with these seniors now for three years. This is not the way I wanted them to go out,” said Milton coach Chip Rearick. “We have one more shot at a win (this morning) when we play Warrior Run. Hopefully we can send our seniors out with a win.”
The offense looked good for the Black Panthers early in the game as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Beginning with a leadoff triple by Davis, Feltman followed with an RBI single before Dillon Stokes doubled. Feltman then came home on a passed ball prior to Dalton Guisewite driving an RBI double to center and Ethan Rowe getting an RBI single.
A two-run double by Blake Wirt got Line Mountain on the board in the second, but Milton answered with a pair in the bottom of the second on a wild pitch and an infield RBI single by Davis for a 6-2 lead.
The Eagles closed the gap to 6-5 an inning later on a two-run home run by Kamden Shaffer and an RBI single by Brock Wirt.
That two-run homer by Shaffer gave Line Mountain the spark it needed to get its offense going.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the dugout. When the dugout gets up (we get up). There’s been some games this season (where we didn’t score many runs). We got shut out once and there’s been a couple of games where we only scored one or two runs, and we just didn’t have a spark,” said Strause.
“Tonight, we get a spark and the next guy comes up and does something with it, and I was pretty pleased with that. All season we had not hit with runners in scoring position. We didn’t necessarily have a hitting problem, because our team on-base percentage was great and our batting average on balls in play was great, but when we get runners on second and third we would freeze up.”
Line Mountain needed to produce at the plate because Milton wouldn’t go away that quietly.
The Black Panthers went back in front 8-5 in the third on RBI singles from Guisewite and Davis.
However, two innings later the Eagles took the lead for good with that five-run fifth — an inning that saw the visitors take advantage of two hit-batters, three walks and a wild pitch. In between, Cameron Gaw hit a two-run single and Colton Schwartz had an RBI single.
Milton would get a run back in the fifth on Chase Hoffman’s RBI single to left, but any chance at a comeback by the Black Panthers was nullified after Line Mountain scored twice more in the top of the seventh on Breven Derk’s two-run single to left.
“Tonight, we had runners in scoring position and we knocked some of them in — we didn’t knock all of them in — but we did the job we needed to do to win,” said Strause, who got five strong innings from diminutive pitcher Brock Wirt in the win.
“For a freshman, it was a fabulous job (for Wirt). He’s had three starts like that this season where he’s thrown exceptional, so I was pleased.”
Line Mountain 13, Milton 9
Line Mtn.023050 2 — 13-13-0
Milton422010 0 — 9-16-1
Brock Wirt, Keefer Neidig (6) and Kamden Shaffer. Brandon Feltman, Chase Hoffman (4), Philip Davis (5) and Davis, Bryce Gower (5).
WP: Wilt. LP: Hoffman.
Line Mountain hitters: Blake Wirt, 1-for-4, double, walk, RBI, run scored; Griffin Smeltz, 1-for-4, HBP, 2 RBI; Cameron Gaw, 1-for-4, walk, RBI, run; Owen Keim, 3-for-4, walk, 2 runs; Shaffer, 3-for-4, HR (3rd, 1 on), HBP, 2 RBI, 2 runs; Colton Schwartz, 1-for-2, 3 walks, 2 runs; Breven Derk, 2-for-3, 2 walks, RBI, run; Evan Herb, HBP, run; Brock Wirt, 1-for-4, walk, RBI, run.
Milton hitters: Davis, 3-for-4, triple, 2 RBI, run scored; Kaleb Baker, 1-for-4; Feltman, 3-for-4, RBI, run; Dillon Stokes, 2-for-4, double, run; Gower, walk, run; Dalton Guisewite, 2-for-4, 2 doubles, RBI, 2 runs; Ethan Rowe, 2-for-4, RBI; Hoffman, 3-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs; Carter Lilly, 2 walks, run.