EPHRATA>> Governor Mifflin’s been here before.
And yet, no one has.
The Mustangs qualified for their second consecutive District 3 top flight baseball title game Wednesday afternoon at War Memorial Field with a 4-2 conquest of Warwick in the 6A semifinals.
The victory also secured Governor Mifflin’s spot in the PIAA playoffs.
A year ago, Mifflin reached the championship game of the old top class, 4A, before losing to Ephrata. Wednesday, at Ephrata, the Mustangs assured their spot in the inaugural 6A championship game opposite Dallastown, which defeated Penn Manor Tuesday evening in the other semifinal.
The 6A championship will be held Thursday at First Energy Stadium in Reading. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. The Mustangs and Wildcats met earlier this season, with Mifflin winning 5-4 on April 7.
“It means a lot to get back, regardless of your classification,” Mifflin head coach Chris Hole said. “We’re one of the smallest, at the bottom of 6A. To compete at the highest level, it is a tremendous feeling to come out get to this part of the tournament.”
Mifflin scored solo runs in the first two innings off Warwick starter Zach Peters, then benefitting from a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 4-0 lead.
Front and center for Mifflin Wednesday was Mustangs starter Noah Weber, who held Warwick down for 5 and 1/3 frames to the tune of no runs on three hits. Weber, a senior, wasn’t overpowering by any stretch — he struck out just four in his 6 1/3 innings of work — but he was efficient in inducing weak contact. Fourteen put outs came on ground balls.
“Noah Weber has been absolutely remarkable for us,” Hole said. “He does that kind of job every time out for us and that’s why we’re successful.”
Staked to a 4-0 lead, Weber had been working on a scoreless streak that reached 44 innings before Warwick’s Justin Byler homered off him with a runner on base and one out in the top of the sixth. Byler’s dinger snapped a streak that began on April 17 with a five-hit shut out of Owen J. Roberts.
“A lot of things (were working),” Weber said. “I was able to get first-pitch curveballs over for strikes, something which I don’t think I am able to often, so that really helped out.
Weber was forced to exit just two outs from a complete game, when his pitch count reached 102 in the sixth after getting the first batter in the seventh. He knew he was done when Hole came out to get him in the seventh, regardless of pitch counts.
“I knew,” Weber said. “I wasn’t getting the quick innings like I’m used to, and I was getting tired. So I wasn’t surprised when Coach Hole came out and said I was at 102.”
Noah Angstadt relieved Weber and was able to procure the final two outs — after surrendering a single and a walk to make things a touch tense at the end.
Mifflin took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on Isaac Ruoss’s sacrifice fly to left to score AJ Sczepkowski. The latter had led off Mifflin’s at-bat with a single and moved to third on a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt.
The lead doubled to 2-0 in the second on a Sczepkowski RBI single; it doubled again in the fifth, when a ground ball with a drawn-in Warwick infield was booted for an error, allowing Trey Paige and Austin Baker to score for a 4-0 Mustangs edge.
Baker had clubbed a double to left deep center to put runners on second and third with no outs.
District 3 6A semifinal
at War Memorial Field, Ephrata
Governor Mifflin 4, Warwick 2
Warwick – 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 — 2 6 2
Gov Mifflin – 1 1 0 0 2 0 x — 4 5 1
WP: Noah Weber LP: Zach Peters
2B: GM, Austin Baker
3B: W, Nate Hess
HR: W, Justin Byler