AFTON – It all started so innocently.
The first five guys to hit in Hancock’s third inning failed to get the ball out of the infield against Sidney left-hander Zak Green and yet the Wildcats had two runs across and two others on base.
By the time it ended Hancock scored four times, runs that carried the Wildcats to a 4-2 victory over Sidney on Thursday in the Midstate Athletic Conference baseball title game.
When a brief but heavy rain fell in the top of the seventh, the players headed for their dugouts. The game was called about 10 minutes later as the infield dirt at Afton’s field turned into mud.
Hancock held a 5-2 lead at the time, but the score reverted back to the last complete inning played.
It marked the Wildcats’ first league championship since winning the Susquenango Association title in 1983.
“If you saw the difference in the game, they hit groundballs, they got guys on base and hit balls through the hole,” Sidney coach Kyle Vibbard said. “The ground is hard. When the ball is on the ground, something can happen. Everything we hit was in the air.”
Wildcats senior Eli Holton has been mainstay for a program that has won four straight Section Four Class D titles, but he normally makes his biggest impact with his bat. This season, Holton also had to contribute on the mound and he showed Thursday how far he’s progressed as a pitcher.
Holton limited the Warriors to four hits to improve to 5-1 on the season.
“This is the first year he’s ever started,” Hancock coach Brandon Olbrys said of Holton, a right-hander who struck out eight and walked two. “He’s a great catcher for us, but he knew, being a team player, he was going to have to pitch for us to have a chance at the league, the section and beyond. He’s not exactly someone who was in to pitching, but being a team player, he knew he was going to have to do just that.”