When Mount Union sophomore Klayton Heffner pitches, Nick Imperioli, in his 39th year as the Trojans' coach, is reminded of a story about former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver.
"He had a reliever, and whenever he brought him in, he used to call him 'full pack,' " Imperioli said, "because Earl used to smoke cigarettes, and he said, 'Whenever I brought him in, I used to smoke a full pack of cigarettes with the way he pitched.'
"If I were a smoker and I brought Clayton in, and I never know what he's going to do, it would be about three packs for me. He's very excitable, and sometimes he overthrows."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
P-O’s Hunter Harris gets Mount Union’s Klayton Heffner on a force-out at second base.
Call him what you want, but Heffner was the hero for the second-seeded Trojans against top-seeded Philipsburg-Osceola in the District 6 Class AA Championship game Friday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Heffner gunned down Matt Kephart at home from his center field spot, and he came in to quell a P-O rally in the sixth inning and and got the last three outs to preserve a 3-2 win over the crestfallen Mounties.
It was the 17th district title for the Trojans (19-5), but it might have been the most surprising for Imperioli as five of his starters were freshman.
The loss stung for the Mounties (18-5) and their large contingent of fans. P-Ohad some chances against starting pitcher Darrian Stapleton and Heffner.
"I thought we just didn't have that many good at-bats," P-O coach Doug Sankey said. "There were a lot of pop-ups and too many strikeouts. It's one play here or there that's the difference in the game."
With the Trojans holding a 2-1 lead and Kephart on second, Mike Marcinko singled to center field, where Heffner charged, gloved and threw a strike to catcher Boomer Brown, who tagged Kephart out for the third out.
"Klayton made a fantastic throw there," Imperioli said. "That was really big, as it turns out."
"That's got to be a perfect throw or he's safe," Sankey said.
In the fifth inning, with MU runners on first and second and one out, P-O pitcher Mark Curtis, who suffered his first loss, induced a grounder that shortstop Marcinko fielded cleanly, but he threw wildly past second baseman Hunter Harris, allowing Thad Wakefield to score.
"We kind of came apart there," Sankey said. "Mike is a Division I shortstop, but sometimes he throws the ball too hard. He got excited and threw it about 90-plus, and Hunter just couldn't handle it."
P-O scored in the seventh when Marcinko scored on Robbie Smith's sacrifice fly, but Heffner induced a lineout and a fly ball to end the game.
Both teams will have to wait until June 4 for their next game. P-O will take on the District 4 champion, while Mount Union will face the District 7 third-placer.
"In 2001, we lost [in the district championship], and we were one win away from the state title," Sankey said. "In 2007, we won the districts and Bald Eagle won the state championship. So, there's hope."
MOUNT UNION (3): Brown c 401, Wakefield lf 312, McClain 1b 400, Walker ss 400, Kylor 2b 311, Heffner cf-p 212, Rogers 3b 200, Morgan rf 300, Atherton dh 301, Stapleton p 000, McMullen cf 000. Totals - 28-3-7.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (2): Marcinko ss 411, Smith c 311, Greenawalt rf 401, Lee dh 301, Harris 2b 000, Curtis p 300, Watson 1b 301, Carpin lf 201, Kephart 3b 201, Walstrom cf 301. Totals - 27-2-8.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Mount Union010 110 0-3 7 1
Philipsburg-Osceola100 000 1-2 8 3
E-Heffner; Marcinko 2, Curtis. 3B-Smith. RBI-Rogers, Atherton; Smith, Lee. LOB-Mount Union 7, Philipsburg-Osceola 8. SAC-Wakefield. SF-Smith. SB-Kylor; Marcinko. HBP-Lee, Kephart (by Stapleton). DP-Mount Union; Philipsburg-Osceola 2.
Mount Union: Stapleton (W)-5 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO; Heffner-1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Curtis (L)-7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO.
Records: Mount Union (19-5); Philipsburg-Osceola (18-5).