ATHENS — As the visiting team, Athens scored first in Saturday’s Section III game against Millersburg but was unable to match the scoring pace of the team from District 24 as Athens dropped a 16-9 decision.
Athens had lost to perennial power Keystone in the opening round of the 9-11 year-old Section III tournament, while Millersburg fell to Juniata County. Athens and Millersburg battled for their tournament lives Saturday evening. The winner would face Juniata County, who lost to Keystone 13-0 earlier in the day. The loser’s tournament would be over.
Millersburg won the coin toss and selected to be the home team. In the top of the first, Athens’ Karson Sipley walked and stole his way around the base paths. Athens held the early lead, 1-0.
Solid Athens defensive play, including an unassisted double play by Sipley, kept Millersburg off the scoreboard in the first.
Millersburg’s offense fired up and evened the score at one in the bottom of the second. Athens began to languish defensively. Millersburg’s bats stepped up the scoring in the third. They strung together a series of hits and walks to score five more runs. At the end of three innings, Millersburg led 6-1.
Down by five, Athens picked up their offensive pace with five runs in the top of the fourth inning. Charan Venkataswamy, Alex Arcesi, and Cooper Robinson each singled, and Cylus Lantz hit a double. The burst evened the score at six apiece.
While slowing a bit offensively, Millersburg continued to exploit miscues in the bottom of the fourth and added two more runs, regaining the lead, 8-6.
For Athens, James Friend led off with a walk in the top of the fifth. Consecutive singles by Venkataswamy and Lantz advanced Friend to third and loaded the bases with no outs. Millersburg curtailed the damage with three consecutive outs. However, Arcesi was able to get another RBI, driving in Friend. Athens closed the gap to a one-run deficit, 8-7.
In the bottom of the fifth, Millersburg’s offense hit full stride, scoring eight runs. They combined four walks with singles by Brayden Midile and Braiden McCartney and doubles by Kamden Schadel and Eli Peryea. After the third out, Athens was in a nine run deficit, 16-7, with one inning left.
Robinson and Sipley started the sixth with walks. Matthias Welles blasted a double off the left field fence scoring Robinson. After a strikeout, Venkataswamy grounded out but drove in Sipley for Athens’ final run. Millersburg’s Midile was able to get a strikeout to end the game, and Athens’ season, two batters later.
Robinson pitched four innings for Athens and Venkataswamy pitched one inning in relief. Braiden McCartney pitched 3 1/3 innings as Millersburg’s starter. Midile pitched the remainder of the game.
Venkataswamy, Welles and Lantz led Athens at the plate with two hits each. Welles drove in three runs for Athens.
Millersburg was led by Midile, Kocher and McCartney with two hits each. Cohen Bechtel, McCartney, Teegan Carroll and Kamden Schadel each drove in two runs for Millersburg.