LOCK HAVEN — The Mifflinburg 8-9-10 softball all-stars faced their toughest test of the 2019 postseason against Clinton County on Thursday afternoon and the Wildcats passed with flying colors as they hung on for a tight, 2-1 victory in the semifinal round of the Section 3 tournament.
The Wildcats cruised to a District 13 title and had not allowed a run or a hit in three playoff games this summer.
Mifflinburg defeated Warrior Run twice in the District 13 tourney and pounced on Towanda in the first round of the Section 3 tournament, 11-0.
Mifflinburg head coach Heath Stewart knew a close game was coming for his team, he just didn’t know when.
That challenge arrived Thursday afternoon in the form of a Clinton County team which had defeated Myersburg, 23-2 in their first round contest.
“I knew it was coming, we see each other during travel ball, so I kind of knew what was coming,” Stewart said. “I knew it was going to be a tough one.”
Mifflinburg got on the board with two quick runs in the bottom of the first inning and it looked as if the Wildcats would cruise to yet another tournament victory behind a potent offense and the lethal left arm of starting pitcher Taylor Stewart.
After Stewart mowed down the first three hitters in Clinton County’s batting order in the top of the first — two on strikeouts — Mifflinburg came out swinging.
Shortstop Anna Pachucki led off with a sharp single to start the game. Two batters later, Stewart helped her own cause with a long RBI triple down the right field line to plate Pachucki.
Maggie Rubendall followed with a perfectly executed bunt which got Stewart home and just like that, Mifflinburg was up, 2-0.
The Wildcats would not score again in the contest, but Stewart made it stand up.
Mifflinburg’s ace was dialed in once again and Stewart dominated a powerful Clinton County lineup with an overpowering fastball and well-timed changeups, just as she had throughout the District 13 tournament and against Towanda in the first round of the Section 3 championship.
Stewart struck out 15 Clinton County hitters on Thursday which raised her astronomical whiff total 41 in 16 innings pitched in four appearances.
“She pitched well today, but again, it’s the girls behind her, stepping up and making plays when we needed them,” Stewart said. “She feels comfortable out there with those girls behind her. (Taylor) did step up today and she throws really well with those girls behind her.”
Clinton County starting pitcher Eva Sockman was nearly as good as Stewart after the first inning.
Sockman settled down after Mifflinburg’s two-run opening frame and did not allow another Mifflinburg run over the next five innings.
Sockman finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk, but took a hard-luck loss in the contest
Clinton County had its best chance to take control of the game in the fourth inning.
First baseman Camdyn Weaver reached on an error aadvanced to second on a wild pitch.
Sockman followed with an RBI single, but Clinton County was unable to push the game-tying run across as Stewart struck out the final two hitters to end the threat with runners on second and third.
It was a magnificent escape which helped to seal the win for Mifflinburg.
The victory was certainly a valuable learning experience for his team according to Stewart.
“I’m glad we had a tight game like this and were able to come through with a win because if we’re lucky enough to advance to the next level, they’re all going to be like this,” Stewart said. “It’s good for them to see that they’re not indestructible. They stayed strong. I love this group.”
Section 3 Tournament
Frank L. Taggart Memorial Park,
Clinton County 1
Clinton County000 100 — 1-2-2
Mifflinburg200 000 — 2-3-1
WP: StewartLP: Sockman
Clinton County hitters: Eva Sockman, 1-for-3, single, RBI; Cheyenne Weaver, single; Camdyn Weaver, run scored; Aubrey Eiler, HBP.
Mifflinburg hitters: Anna Pachucki, 1-for-3, single, stolen base (2), run scored; Taylor Stewart, 1-for-2, triple, run scored, RBI; Aubrey Fluman, single, walk; Chloe Showalter, HBP.