On Labor Day afternoon, the Mifflinburg Phillies added another chapter to their storied history when they traveled to Kennedy Field in Dauphin to defeat the Athletics 18-2, while at the same time winning the 2013 best-of-three Championship series, 2 games to 1. In the process, the Mifflinburg franchise also claimed their 14th playoff championship in the 21-year history of the Pennsylvania Mid-State Baseball League, and its earlier predecessors. Amazingly, the Phillies have reached the final game, or series, in 19 of those 21 seasons, and boast an overall franchise record of 404-124-2 (.764).
A recap of the championship series follows:
Game #1 – August 25 at New Berlin – Phillies 5, Athletics 4:
The Athletics had reached the title series for the first time in team history by sweeping three games the previous weekend. Dauphin wrapped up its quarterfinal series with a 5-0 win in East Hanover on Saturday, before sweeping their semi-final series 11-1 and 2-0 over the Enola Yankees the next day. Meanwhile, the Phillies earned their way to the dance with sweeps of the Mechanicsburg Mets (7-5 and 16-2) and Hummelstown Nationals (7-6 and 13-3).
The series opener began as a pitchers duel between Dauphin’s Shane Lenker and the Phillies’ Denny Wonsick. Scoreless in the third, the Phillies broke the ice when their top two power hitters, Ry Carman and Matt Diltz, each connected for a solo homerun. It was the 5th playoff homerun in five games for each lefty slugger.
After Dauphin sliced the lead in half, the Phillies answered with another two-spot in the bottom of the fourth, this time with some help. Two errors and a Carman sacrifice produced a 4-1 advantage.
The score remained 4-1 until the sixth when Jason Albright and Eric Yoho singled to start the frame, bringing Tyler Hollenbach to the dish as the tying run. The left-handed Hollenbach, wasting no time, jumped on Wonsick’s first offering and drove it over the rightfield fence to tie the score. Wonsick would recover to retire 6 of the next 7 batters and send the game to the bottom of the seventh knotted at 4-4.
Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Carman, already 2-for-2 with a homerun and sac fly, picked on a 1-0 Lenker changeup, and drove it over the centerfield fence for a dramatic walk-off homerun. The game-winning blast drew the Phillies to within a single victory of re-capturing the Championship Cup, held for the past two years by the Enola Yankees.
The homer also made a winner of Wonsick, who improved to 9-0 on the season with a sparkling 6-hitter. Carman and Rich Aurand led the way for the Mifflinburg offense, both going 3-for-3. Knapp and the A’s Nick Johnson each had a pair of singles in the contest.
Game #2 – August 25 at New Berlin – Athletics 10, Phillies 1:
Athletics players displayed a very short memory in game 2, bouncing back from the potentially devastating defeat of the first contest. And they did so in an emphatic way, ambushing the Phils with 12 hits while scoring in each of the first four innings, to build an 8-1 lead.
An error and an Eric Yoho RBI-groundout got one run home in the first. Singles by Dan Jorich, Jeff Thrush, and Justin Palmer produced another run in the second. Then, in the 3rd, the lumber really came to life for the A’s. Five straight hits to start the inning led to five runs, which chased Mifflinburg starter Mark LeValley from the mound.
After Nick Johnson singled to get it started, Scott Montgomery blasted a two-run dinger to left to make it 4-1. After an error, Yoho and Hollenbach singled to load the bases. Jorich’s second hit brought in one run, and Thrush’s sacrifice fly knocked in another. Andy Morrison capped the big rally with an RBI-single of his own, making the score 7-1.
The Phillies would bang out three singles in each of the next two innings to load the bases. But Dauphin starter Brad Sanders worked his way out of both jams to keep the home team in check. Sanders surrendered 12 hits altogether, but none for extra bases. Like Lenker in the first game, Sanders walked one and struck out one to pull his team even in the series.
RBI-singles from Thrush and Morrison in the seventh produced the last two runs of a 10-1 victory, in which no less than seven Athletics collected a pair of singles. Johnson, Albright, Yoho, Hollenbach, Jorich, Thrush, and Morrison were all either 2-for-3 or 2-for-4. Morrison finished with 3 RBI.
Steve Russell was 3-for-4 and Kurt Leitzel went 2-for-4 for the Phils. The results of the day set the stage for a third and deciding game, to be played the following weekend on Labor Day.
Game #3 – September 2 at Dauphin – Phillies 18, Athletics 2:
Game #3 promised to be another exciting pitchers duel between Wonsick and Lenker, the third time in six weeks that the two had locked horns. And through 4 frames of the scheduled 9-inning final, it was just that, as the Phillies forged a slim 3-2 lead.
Singles by Knapp and Hoffman led to an RBI groundout by Don Leitzel, as the Phillies drew first blood in the 2nd. After the A’s Jorich smoked a deep RBI-triple to tie the score at 1-1, Diltz countered with a two-run double in the 3rd. In the 4th, Yoho doubled and came home on an error to trim the lead to 3-2.
It was still anybody’s ball game with two outs and Carman at first base in the top of the 5th. But then Mifflinburg exploded with an offensive rampage rarely seen in a championship game. Five straight two-out, RBI-hits produced an 8-2 advantage. First, Diltz tomahawked an up and away fastball into the left-centerfield gap to score Carman. Then Aurand singled hard to left to score Diltz. LeValley followed suit by doubling to right-center for a 6-2 lead. Knapp then had himself a tremendous at-bat, fouling off 4 straight 0-2 pitches, before serving a soft RBI-liner over shortstop. Pinch-runner Russell would chug around to score when Hoffman followed with a hard double down the leftfield line. When the dust settled on the two-out rally, the Phillies had their first comfortable lead of the series.
Mifflinburg then put the game away in the sixth against Sanders, who entered in relief of Lenker. Shortstop Kevin Kline took a pitch off the calf to get it started and Kurt Leitzel beat out an infield single. Carman’s sacrifice bunt attempt was mishandled to load the bases. Russell followed with a two-run single, and Diltz smoked yet another RBI-line drive, this one to right field. After that, Aurand sacrificed two runners into scoring position, where LeValley’s hit scored one, and Knapp’s sac fly delivered the other. When the smoke cleared on another 5-run inning, the Phillies had a 13-2 lead.
Though the outcome seemed secure, Mifflinburg put some icing on the cake with yet another five-spot in the top of the seventh. Leading off, Don Leitzel cracked his third playoff homerun to centerfield, before son Kurt lined a single to left. Carman followed with a two-run homer to right, his 7th of the 2013 playoffs, and 9th of the season. Not to be outdone, Diltz followed a Russell single with his 6th playoff homer (8th of the season), while completing a 4-for-4, 2 double, 6 RBI day. Diltz, a former league MVP, whose 4 hits all left vapor trails, finished a triple shy of the cycle.
After Wonsick retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, the Phillies again drank from the Cup that they had hoisted 13 times previously. The former Dauphin righthander finished with a four-hit, three-walk masterpiece, which raised his season record to 10-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.98. It was also his third win against his ex-mates in a little over a month. In those 3 complete games, he surrendered just 7 runs altogether.
Impressive pitching numbers indeed, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Phillies batted a gaudy .448 in this year’s playoffs, and got incredible contributions from each spot in the batting order. Here are some of the eye-popping individual playoff numbers:
Ry Carman 14-for-25 (.560), 7 HR, 17 RBI, 12 runs
Matt Diltz 11-for-23 (.478), 6 HR, 15 RBI, 2 doubles, 10 runs
Don Leitzel 10-for-17 (.588), 3 HR, 8 RBI
Scott Hoffman 10-for-17 (.588), 2 doubles
Kurt Leitzel 9-for-18 (.500), 4 SB, 7 runs
Mark LeValley 9-for-21 (.429), double ---- 2-1 on mound, 3.50 ERA
Rich Aurand 8-for-17 (.471), double, 5 BB
Steve Russell 8-for-22 (.364)
Mike Knapp 6-for-18 (.333)
Stu Sumner 6-for-15 (.400)
Denny Wonsick 4 complete game wins, 7 BB, 11 K, 3.50 ERA