BELLEFONTE — Philipsburg-Osceola’s baseball team got mostly good news on opening day.
Ace pitcher Mark Curtis will not need Tommy John surgery after straining the ulnar collaterate ligament in his throwing arm earlier this year and could resume pitching in three weeks. The bad news? The defense needs some work.
Aided by a sloppy defensive first from their Mountie counterparts, Bellefonte bats got hot early, reheated late and the Red Raiders cruised to a 14-4 win in five innings on Thursday. It was a solid opening day for the Red Raiders (1-0), who struggled to mount offense during last season’s 5-12 campaign.
Seven Red Raiders added hits and RBIs while nine scored runs. No Red Raider was as impressive as Tanner Day, however.
Hitting out of the leadoff spot, Day went 4-for-4 with two runs scored and a leadoff double that set the tone for the afternoon. Can Day, only a sophmore, lock down the Red Raiders’ top spot in the batting order this early on?
“We’re trying to figure that out,” Bellefonte coach Jeremy Rellinger said. “We think he’s got the tools to be that guy and he was productive today, as were a couple of guys throughout the lineup. That’s much different than last year. Production from top to bottom is what we need to start having.”
Day’s double to left kicked the season off for both squads and the Red Raiders would cycle through their order once before P-O could secure the first out. By then Bellefonte had built a 6-0 lead.
Day got the scoring started when he zipped home on a P-O throwing error to first base. P-O starter Caleb Pepperday walked in the second run with four straight balls to Taylor Smith. Ethan White added a two-RBI double to left and Ryan McClosky knocked in another run with a pop-up to second base the Mountie defense couldn’t handle. Jordan Fye popped one up immediately thereafter and P-O gave up another run when that fly ball fell in for a base hit.
When Day got back to the plate he hit another pop-up the P-O infield misplayed to plate Doylan Deitrich who had walked two batters earlier.
Pepperday, who walked four Bellefonte batters in the first, struck out the 11th and 12th batters he faced to escape the first.
“Physically there are a lot of things we can correct. We had four popups that cost us. ... There are some things we haven’t worked on yet that are correctable,” P-O coach Doug Sankey said. “We’re definitely young in the infield. We had a lot miscommunication on relays. We had some miscommunication on the popups. A lot of little things.”
Bellefonte outhit P-O 11-5 on the afternoon but not before the Mounties chipped away at the lead.
P-O (0-1) got on the board after a rough start to the second. Cody Ammerman hit a two-out single to right then scored when Smith, Bellefonte’s starter, walked the next three batters he faced. Smith got out of the inning when he punched out Curtis who was healthy enough to DH for P-O.
The Mounties continued to make a game of it in the fourth. Then, Tanner Lamb led off with a single. The next four Mounties reached base with Curtis drilling a single into left to plate Lamb. Nick Gray added an RBI single to plate Taylor Golemboski who walked from the No. 2 spot. Travis Arnold’s sacrifice fly to right field plated Curtis to cut Bellefonte’s lead to 7-4.
But Bellefonte’s offense would explode again in the bottom of the frame. This time the Red Raiders would do so with two outs.
McClosky drew a walk from Gray who relieved Pepperday after two-plus innings and Fye singled to put runners on first and second. Day kept his hit streak going with a single to left that plated McClosky.
“I’ve always been comfortable hitting out of leadoff. It’s an important spot,” Day said. “You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to get on base and start things off.”
Andrew Stover kept them going with a double to left that scored Fye and Day. Seth Weaver walked just before Dan Roan added a knockout blow with a 3-run blast over the right field fence. Roan came in to pitch the fifth for Bellefonte and retired three of four hitters. Dietrich added the walk-off homer — a towering shot to left field.
From his perspective, Rellinger wasn’t sure if Dietrich’s blast had enough on it to clear the fence. From where Day was sitting, he only needed to hear the ping of Roan’s and Dietrich’s bats to know those balls were well-hit.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “They were both solid hits.”