DISTRICT 4 BASEBALL: FOURTH-SEEDED MIFFLIBURG UPENDS TOP-SEEDED ATHENS, 10-4, IN CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS (24 PHOTOS)
(2023-05-23)By MACK DAVISValley Sports Report
MANSFIELD — Fourth-seeded Mifflinburg used a relentless offensive attack to pound out a 10-4 win over top-seeded Athens here Tuesday afternoon in the semifinals of the District 4, Class 4A baseball playoffs here at Mansfield University.
Mifflinburg had runners all over the bases the entire game. The Wildcats banged out 14 hits, worked six walks, and scored in six of the seven innings. Not only did they score 10 runs, they left 10 runners on base, including seven in scoring position.
Athens coach Charlie Havens watched Mifflinburg’s 4-3 eight-inning win over Danville Saturday in the quarterfinals, and was not expecting what he saw Tuesday.
“We watched (Mifflinburg’s) game on Saturday against Danville, and honestly we liked this match-up better,” he said. “Danville played a lot of small ball, and we thought that would give us fits.
“We didn’t see Mifflinburg hit the ball hard at all against Danville on Saturday — the outs were the hardest balls they hit,” noted Havens. “They hit the ball hard today, though.
“It’s tough,” he added. “I don’t think we expected our season to end today, but (Mifflinburg) is a good team, a very good team.”
Andrew Diehl led off the game with a single, and scored on a one-out RBI double by Troy Dressler to make it 1-0, but Athens starter Lucas Horton left him stranded there by retiring the next two batters.
Horton led off the bottom of the first with a walk, but was immediately replaced on the base paths via a fielder’s choice off the bat of fellow senior Caleb Nichols. With two outs, seniors Mason Lister and Lucas Kraft worked walks to load the bases, but Mifflinburg starter Zeb Hufnagle retired the next batter to escape the jam unscathed.
Mifflinburg added to its lead with a two-out RBI single by Tanner Zimmerman in the top of the second to make it 2-0.
Mifflinburg banged out five singles in the third inning, including a pair of two-out singles that accounted for four runs in a five-run rally that extended the lead to 7-0.
The Athens Wildcats got on the board in the home half of the third inning. Horton drew a walk, and Nichols laced a line-drive single to left field. After senior Cam Sullivan’s groundout advanced the runners to second and third, a throwing error on a groundball off the bat of senior Mason Lister allowed both runners to score, closing the gap to 7-2.
Mifflinburg answered, however, with a run in the fourth, and another in the fifth inning to make it 9-2.
“(Mifflinburg) scored in every inning but one,” said Havens. “It’s hard to chip away at a lead when a team keeps scoring.”
Mifflinburg scored again in the top of the seventh to stretch its lead to 10-2.
With two outs in the home half of the seventh, Nichols, Sullivan, and Lister stroked consecutive singles to load the bases, and Luke Kraft drilled a two-run single into center field to cut the lead to 10-4, but that’s all the damage Athens would do.
“We have 10 seniors, there was no one on this team quitting,” said Havens. “Even with two outs and no one on in the last inning, we were able to score a couple runs.”
Lister had two hits and one RBI, and Nichols singled twice and scored two runs to pace Athens at the plate, while Kraft singled and drove in two runs, Sullivan singled and scored one run, senior Jaren Glisson added a double, and Horton scored one run.
Horton was tagged with the loss, allowing eight runs — seven earned — on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked three.
Kraft allowed one run on one hit in 2 2/3 innings of relief, with two strikeouts and three walks, and Sullivan allowed one run on two hits, with two strikeouts in one inning of relief.
Athens wraps up its season at 18-2. It was the final game for 10 Wildcat seniors, and nearly all of them started their varsity careers three years ago when Havens first took the varsity coaching job at Athens.
“We had some awesome moments this year. This journey for all of us was pretty special.
“It’s my first varsity experience,” said Havens. “I had 10 sophomores who immediately went into the line-up, and to see them grow on a daily basis has been impressive.
“They are so much fun to be around,” he noted. “They’ve matured, and I’ve created a bond for life with these guys. It’s going to be weird next year to have a whole new group of guys.
“These seniors mean everything to me,” added Havens. “Athens has given me a chance to be a varsity coach, something I’ve always wanted to do. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to start with. It’s going to be tough not having them around.”
Havens said the build-up for the 2024 season will begin soon.
“We’ll take a week off, then we’ll get started again with summer ball.
“The cupboard is not bare,” said Havens. “Between junior high, JV, and varsity, we lost three games this year. We were something ridiculous like 48-3.
“We have some kids coming,” he added. “There will be a lot of new faces for me to learn, but we’ll be back.”
IN PHOTO 1: Athens senior Mason Lister. … PHOTOS 1-10 BY MACK PATRICK … PHOTOS 11-24 COURTESY OF CHRISTINA KREYKENBOHM.
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