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Juniata does it again! Tops Mount Union in D6 opener

By Kenny Varner

MOUNT UNION – After a week of playing three games in a row and all in do-or-die contests, the Juniata baseball team was cool under pressure and has lived to play another day.
Less than 24 hours after defeating Susquenita in Newport for the Tri-Valley League championship, the game-tested Indians were back on the field with the game now being played for the right to move on to the next round of District 6 3A playoffs, going toe-to-toe with a young but scrappy Mount Union Trojan team.
After spotting the Trojans a 1-0 early lead, the Indians fought their way back for two in the sixth and one more in the seventh to take the 3-1 victory.
But maybe most importantly, the win gave Juniata some much deserved rest as they will not play again until Tuesday.
Juniata sent Cade Kreider to the mound to go up against Mount Union hurler Dylan Gearhart. Both pitchers went the distance.
Despite the loss, Gearhart finished the game with six strike outs, allowed eight hits and was pitching a shut out until the sixth inning.
Kreider gave up his only run in the fourth but then buckled down and got stronger in the final innings. His pitching performance did not go unnoticed by his manager Nick Beward.
“That has been Cade Kreider all year. Cade is not going to go out and strike out a lot of guys. He causes a lot of guys to pop up and not necessarily gets a lot of ground balls but mostly fly balls,” Beward said. “We had confidence in him. That question came up earlier in the week. “What are you going to do when you pitch your one and two pitcher and then your going off to districts, what are you going to do?” See we don’t have a number one or number two pitcher. They are all number one pitchers. And I am going to firmly stick behind that.”
Offensively, the Indians had numerous players come up strong for them. Spencer Page led the way with a 2-for-3 effort posting a single and a double.
“I would expect nothing less,” Beward said about the team’s late rally to pull out the victory. “I believe we have had four walk off wins in the bottom of the seventh. I expect that out of them. It is not a surprise.But the way we came out and played after playing two straight games and now a third. That does surprise me. We came out a little flat. No talk, no nothing and they were tired out.”
The Trojans had one player produce multiple hits and that was Devon Pearce as he went 2-for-3 with a single and a double also.
“We’ll be looking to make another run again next year. We’ll get a little more offense and hopefully we will get a little more confidence and we’ll try again. We’ll have a lot of guys coming back,” Mount Union manager Tim Hicks said. “I thought this group of seniors did a really nice job. They worked hard. Sometimes things didn’t go the way they wanted it to. Ur they came to practice and busted their butt. They came to practice and worked hard.
The contest started out a very defensive game as both teams kept the other off the scoreboard. It would be the Trojans that posted the first run of the game.
Quinton Posey got the bottom of the fourth going with a long double to deep center.
Posey found himself in a rundown minutes later when he was caught leaning to third on a grounder by Zach Brenneman. During the rundown, Brenneman alertly moved up to second.
With two outs, Pearce singled in Brenneman, making it 1-0.
Juniata started to put things together offensively in the sixth, posting two runs to take the lead.
Like the night before, Dakota Nealman started the spark, roping a single to lead off the inning.
Spence Page followed with a long blast to left centerfield allowing Nealman to score, tying it at one.
Jamie Bailer came in to pinch run for Page and moved up to third on a grounder to first by teammate Donovan Ranck.
He later scored thanks to a wild pitch that rolled to the backstop, giving the visitors the 2-1 advantage going into the final stanza.
Juniata was not done yet as they added an insurance run in the top of the seventh.
Chase Kepner led off the inning with a single to right centerfield. He was replaced on the base path by Dalton Lesh.
Zac Piper layers down a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt to move Lesh up to second.
With two out, Zack Snyder posted an RBI single to left center to put the icing on the cake for the Indians.
Kreider finished the Trojans off posting two pop ups and a ground out.
Most importantly, Kreider helped his team get some much needed rest and helped cap off a week that won’t soon be forgotten by Indians players and their fans.
With the win, Juniata extends its winning streak to 10-in-a-row.

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