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DeSchriver column: Gov. Mifflin’s victory in PIAA baseball championship game was a classic

Forget those runner-up finishes in the Berks and District 3 championship games.

Disregard not having won a state playoff game until this year.

Gov. Mifflin’s baseball team and its legion of fans who traveled to Penn State Friday woke up Saturday morning with this singular thought: The Mustangs are state champions.

And Mifflin did it in championship style, using great pitching, timely hitting and sure-handed fielding. Just how a championship team is supposed to win.

After junior Bryce Detwiler mowed down the Hollidaysburg hitters in the top of the seventh to secure the PIAA Class 5A title for the Mustangs with a 2-1 win, the team rushed this year’s Berks Player of the Year and the celebration was on.

Detwiler came on in the seventh inning to pitch, throwing 14 pitches, 11 of them strikes and whiffing the three batters he faced.

A great ending to a great night of pitching by the Mustangs (24-5).

And by his own admission, Detwiler isn’t the best pitcher on the team.

That distinction goes to another junior, Ethan Grim, who gutted through a 110-pitch six innings, striking out 11 batters, and allowing just two hits, giving up one run and walking three.

It sure helps Grim and Detwiler to have a standout catcher in Travis Jenkins.

Oh by the way, Jenkins is a junior too. Talk about giving opposing coaches nightmares for the next year.

“Bryce and I talk smack,” Grim said after being asked who is the better pitcher. “I think I’m the better pitcher but he’s the better hitter.”

Grim is on the money there.

Detwiler blasted a ground-rule double in the bottom of the third inning and eventually scored on a Jenkins’ ground out to first to tie the game at 1-1. In the bottom of the fifth, he hit another shot to deep right-center field that the outfielder made a nice play tracking down.

“I’ll give Ethan that one,” Detwiler said of his teammate’s assessment of their skills.

Jenkins gets the pleasure of catching both and agreed that Grim is the better pitcher and that Detwiler can really smoke the ball at the plate.

Like most of the Gov. Mifflin players, Jenkins, Grim and Detwiler have played together since pre-Little League days.

It comes in handy when Grim runs into trouble. Jenkins probably knows more about Grim’s pitching than the pitcher himself.

“He started to tire in the fourth inning,” Jenkins said. “I could tell by his mechanics. I just try to calm him down.”

Catchers are to pitchers what point guards are to prolific scorers in basketball — one can’t be great without the other also being great, and unselfish.

Jenkins said that Grim has enough confidence in his backstop to let him call the game after they map out a plan.

Whatever their discussion was before Friday night, it should be made into a TV movie because it set up a dramatic ending.

Grim wasn’t perfect, but he battled, got key strikes in tough spots and got the Mustangs to where they needed to be: Leading going into the top of the seventh with Detwiler waiting to stride to the hill.

Gov. Mifflin coach Chris Hole said that if asked who the better pitcher was, he would say, “No comment.”

And with good reason, he’s the lucky man who gets to manage the Big Three for another season, so no reason to derail that high-powered locomotive.

But Hole did hit on an important point when talking about his three junior stars after the win.

“We had great senior leadership this year,” he said. “Of course we had the juniors who are really talented, but the seniors came through tonight too.”

Bryce Wunderlich was one of them, knocking in the eventual game-winning run in the fourth inning with a hard-hit single up the middle.

Hole said all the seniors, even those who didn’t get to play much, were leaders this season, which he said doesn’t always happen when seniors don’t see the field as much as they want to.

It would be easy for some of them to take exception to the team’s three underclassmen stars and be disgruntled.

Give Hole credit, he navigated the minefields of coaching teenagers and kept his team singularly focused.

Hole also pointed out that he’s had really good teams in the past but that doesn’t always transcend into championships.

There are 646 schools that play baseball in the PIAA and only six of them win state titles each year.

Gov. Mifflin is one of them in 2024.

Jenkins said he’d enjoy this win for a week or two, then it’s safe to say he’ll begin to plot how to catch two of the best pitchers in the state in 2025.

Chris Hole might be the only Class 5A baseball coach in Pennsylvania who sleeps well for the next 10 months.

Tom DeSchriver is the sports editor for the Reading Eagle

 


Source: Berkshire mont

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