As soon as Mifflin County's Hunter Shuff hit the first pitch he saw, Bensalem pitcher Brandon Wermuth watched as his shortstop fielded the routine grounder and rocketed a throw to first baseman George Pegram for the third and final out of the seventh inning.
Wermuth started yelling and cheering, high-fiving and laughing with his teammates on the thirdbase line. The pitcher was more than happy that his team just advanced into the Babe Ruth 13-15-year-old Pennsylvania state tournament semifinals by defeating Mifflin County, 7-5, at Logue Field on Wednesday.
Luke Duris put Bensalem ahead for good with a 2-RBI triple that hit off the very top of the fence in left field. The extra-base hit put Bensalem up, 5-3, and Mifflin County's offense struggled to string together consistency on offense.
"We're pretty solid (pitching-wise)," Bensalem manager Adam Wnuk said. "Brandon, he's probably my number two pitcher, but he was a solid number one today. His location was great."
Wermuth struck out just three, but scattered three hits through five innings. Mifflin County ended the day with eight hits - only two being extra-base hits - and didn't hit the ball the way it has throughout the tournament.
"Eight hits for us is not a lot of hits, it really isn't. We've been noted for our offensive power," Mifflin County manager Bernie Howard said. "I thought we had hit the ball pretty well overall. We had seen this pitcher last year actually...so we've seen him. But I knew it'd be an uphill battle with him, he's very good."
Bensalem's Bob Romano had a 2-run single into left field in just the third at-bat of the game before Duris had an RBI into shallow center field to bring Romano home for a 3-0 Bensalem lead.
Mifflin County responded in the first with a string of three straight singles, capped with Drew Hannon's 2-run hit up the middle. An error allowed Hunter Walker to reach and scored Hannon with the tying run.
Bensalem kept it's cool and didn't get flustered.
"I think they like pressure," Wnuk said. "They like playing under pressure."
In the fourth inning, Ed Belz had a single into right-center field to load the bases, before Pat Farrell hit a ball down the left-field line to drive in two runs and give Bensalem a 3-run cushion.
Hunter Shuff drove a run in for Mifflin County in the third inning to make it 5-3. Hannon had an RBI single in the seventh with two outs to bring in Carter Spade, who had reached with deep triple into right field.
"You never quit battling, but just wasn't to be today," Howard said. "Bensalem is very tough. I thought it was an excellent game, like to have a play or two back as any coach in this position would tell you, but overall, I was very pleased with the players, the team. I thought they gave an excellent effort."
Bensalem plays in the semifinals today at Logue Field against Media, the No. 1 seed, at 5 p.m.
Bensalem320 200 0-7 9 4
Mifflin Co.301 000 1-5 8 2
Blaise Roush, Hunter Shuff (1), Lucas McKay (7) and Jered Michaels, Matt Lutz (6). Brandon Wermuth and Joe Wnuk. WP-Wermuth. LP-Shuff.
Top Bensalem hitters: Mike Kirby 2-4, run Luke Duris 2-3, 3B, 3 RBIs, run. Top Mifflin County hitters: Carter Spade 2-4, 3B, 2 runs; Lucas McKay 2B, 2 runs; Drew Hannon 2-4, 3 RBIs, run.
Next game: Semifinals: Bensalem vs. Media, today, 5 p.m.