BANGOR, Maine — Mitch Massaro struck out 11 batters and limited Old Town to a pair of unearned runs on five hits Thursday night as Holmes County, Ohio, earned a berth in the Senior League World Series championship game with a 9-2 semifinal victory over the Maine District 3 representatives at Mansfield Stadium.

The righthander walked no one while throwing 94 pitches, and the U.S. Central champs rallied from a 1-0 deficit with seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning en route to its second victory of the tournament over Old Town.

“At Hiland (High School, enrollment 280), all we talk about is first-pitch strikes and don’t walk anybody and the pitchers will do fine,” said Massaro. “We work so much on infield and defense, the pitchers trust that if you hit them the ball, you’re out.”

Holmes County, 29-2-1 overall this summer and the winner of its last 17 games, will face defending SLWS titlist West University Little League of Houston, Texas in Saturday’s noon final.

“It seems surreal,” said Holmes County manager Mike Yoder. “This is a good group, they’ve fought hard and never quit believing.”

Old Town concluded its first trip to the Senior League World Series with a 2-2 record.

“Nobody expected us to be here, first and foremost,” said Old Town manager Troy Sheehan. “I had a group of 19 kids and I brought 12 to a tournament that nobody picked us to come to. I think we represented ourselves and our town and our area very well. I can’t say enough about the group.”

Derek Miller paced Holmes County’s offense with a double, single and three RBIs, with his double giving the U.S. Central champions the lead for good.

“I went up there just thinking if I got on base someone’s going to hit me over, and I had to do anything to get on base whether it was taking a pitch in the back or four balls or hit a little blooper, just something to get us going,” said Miller. “It just so happened I got on base and momentum shifted toward us and that’s when we took off.”

Tyson Gingerich and Chris Kline each added two RBIs for Holmes County, while Ethan Stoddard and Austin Sheehan had two hits each for Old Town.

“The name of the game is throwing strikes, and Mr. Massaro, he threw some strikes,” said Troy Sheehan. “I watched him the other night and was hoping that he had too many pitches and we wouldn’t see him, but he’s a great pitcher and he did a great job.”

Massaro worked the outside corner to strike out five of the first eight batters he faced, but an errant pickoff throw by the Holmes County righthander enabled Old Town to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.

Stoddard hit a leadoff single to left and moved to third with no out and moved to third when Sheehan slammed a double to deep right.

Massaro almost escaped the predicament, striking out the next two batters. But when he tried to pick Sheehan off second base, his throw struck the runner and went into center field, allowing Stoddard to easily score the game’s first run.

Holmes County finally got to Stoddard with its second trip around the batting order, sending 11 batters to the plate in the top of the fourth and capitalized on four hits and four walks to take control.

A one-out walk to Massaro and a single to right by Bryan Yoder put runners on first and third with one out.

Yoder stole second to put both runners in scoring position, and Miller drove them home with a double over the head of Old Town left fielder Jacob Ketch — with an errant throw back into the infield allowing Miller to reach third base on the play.

“It was a fastball straight down the middle,” said Miller, who then scored to make it 3-1 when Braden Mast grounded out to third.

Stoddard walked Noel Sommers on four pitches before being replaced on the mound by Gifford, who walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases before Gingerich slammed an 0-1 pitch into center field for a two-run single and Kline followed with a pop two-run single to right-center to extend the lead to 7-1.

Holmes County added two more runs in the fifth. Yoder hit a leadoff double to left and scored when Miller singled under the glove of Stoddard at shortstop. Miller stole second and scored on back-to-back fly balls to center by Mast and Sommers.

Old Town got a run back in the sixth when Gifford reached on a two-out error and Stoddard and Sheehan followed with back-to-back singles to left.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...