By Frank Foreman
July 18, 2013 7:00 a.m. CORRY —
Describing Mid-East/Titusville’s McKenna Houck’s pitching performance Wednesday night as dominant wouldn’t be doing Houck justice.
On Wednesday night, she was spectacular.
In the Section 1 Tournament loser’s bracket final game against Union City, Houck came within one pitch from a perfect game. She, along with the rest of the Mid-East/Titusville 9 and 10 year old All-Star team, will have to settle for her 13 strikeout no-hitter during a 4-0 win at Columbus School Field.
Now, Mid-East/Titusville gets a rematch with Punxsutawney tonight at 6 p.m. in the championship game. Mid-East/Titusville, which lost to Punxsutawney 2-1 in the opening game of the Section 1 Tournament, must win twice to claim the crown.
The lone blemish in the scorebook for Houck came in the bottom of the third inning, where she hit Union City’s Tara Jackson with a pitch.
But it was clear before and after Jackson’s at-bat that being hit with a pitch was the only way Union City would sniff first base.
“She’s phenomenal. She’s a rock,” Mid-East/Titusville manager Terry Doolittle said of Houck. “She knows what needs to get done, and she goes out and does it.”
Besides striking out batters left and right, Houck’s pitching proves to be beneficial in many ways, including raising the game of the players around her, something Doolittle realizes is invaluable.
“When she’s on the field, she gives confidence to the whole team,” Doolittle said. “They know that if McKenna can pitch like that, they can surround her and play like a team.”
While Houck was taking care of business on the mound, Mid-East/Titusville’s offense utilized its specialty — running the bases aggressively.
With no score in the top of the third inning, Lindsay Sweitzer reached first on an infield single to kick off the frame. Sweitzer moved to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on an error to make it 1-0 in favor of MET.
Later in the inning, Maddie Woge smacked an RBI single that scored Emily Finley to make it 2-0.
With Houck cruising on the hill, Mid-East/Titusville added to its lead in the top of the fifth when Alaina Gallegor, who walked with one out in the inning, worked her way around the bases and scored on a wild pitch to push the lead to 3-0.
MET added another insurance run in the sixth, with Woge scoring on a RBI bunt single by Taylor Kerr, making it 4-0. Woge singled to lead off the inning, and moved to second on an error. A groundout by Houck moved Woge to third base, where she scored with ease on Kerr’s bunt.
Though the bats weren’t exactly catching fire, heads-up baserunning was the key for Mid-East/Titusville. They continually advanced on wild pitches and successful straight steals.
“We have to be aggressive on the basepaths, until a team decides they want to stop us,” Doolittle said. “When we’re going against a quality pitcher, you have to be aggressive, and our girls are very good baserunners.”
Woge led the way on offense for Mid-East/Titusville with a pair of hits and an RBI. Kerr and Sweitzer tallied the other two knocks.
Now the focus turns to Punxsutawney, a team that Doolittle knows has talent, and knows how to maximize it.
“Punxsutawney is a very solid team. They play great defense and they can hit the ball,” Doolittle said. “We will have a great game plan in place and hope for the best. We are very confident that we can make it a good game.”
MET will need to string together perhaps its two best games of the tournament in order to reach the state tournament. But first thing’s first, Mid-East/Titusville must take care of business tonight.
“We keep our team pretty grounded, and we don’t allow them to think about next week or the week after,” Doolittle said. “You can’t play for the next inning or the next game, you have to play for the now.”