WINGATE — As the Bald Eagle Area baseball team took the field for the top of the fourth inning, Eagles coach Jim Gardner clapped and offered some quick praise for his team.
He’d just watched the second-seeded Eagles strike for five runs to blow open their District 6 Class AA quarterfinal matchup against No. 7 Blairsville. BEA recorded four hits and three walks in the big inning that extended the Eagles’ lead to six runs and eased any nerves in the home dugout at Doc Etters Field.
“It let me relax a little bit too,” Gardner said with a smile, “because we were giving up some hits and they were putting the ball in play. When you score, it lets you relax a little bit there, and I think it took Blairsville out of the game a little bit at that point.”
Bald Eagle Area rolled to a 12-2 win over the Bobcats (12-6) in six innings on Monday to advance to the district semifinals. The Eagles (13-6) will host third-seeded Bellwood-Antis, which beat Richland 7-3, at 4 p.m. Thursday.
On Monday, BEA put together an efficient all-around performance to beat Blairsville. The Eagles scored in every inning and piled up 12 hits. Starting pitcher Colton Comly (6-2) scattered seven hits and limited the Bobcats to two runs in five innings to pick up the win. BEA also was sharp defensively outside of committing two errors on one play in the fourth inning.
Bald Eagle Area came out strong in the field and at the plate.
In the top of the first, Eagles second baseman Brandon Gettig handled consecutive groundouts before Blairsville’s Scott Thompson drilled a line drive to the left-field fence. He tried to stretch a double into a triple, but left fielder Alex Struble and Bryce Greene with the relay gunned Thompson down at third base to end the inning.
In the bottom half, Jordan Kobularcik came through with a two-out single through the left side of the infield to score Bryan Greene.
“I’ve been slumping the last couple games, so it felt good to get my team off to a good start with the RBI,” said Kobularcik, who went 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs. “And they just added on from there.”
Gettig kept the Eagles rolling in the bottom of the second after Blairsville tied the game 1-1.
He drew a walk to start the inning, then took off for second base on a steal attempt. The throw sailed into the outfield as Gettig slid into the bag, and he popped up and raced all the way home, diving head-first around the tag at the plate to push BEA back in front.
“I saw the second baseman missed it so I was thinking three,” Gettig said. “But then I saw (Gardner) waving so I just kept going.”
BEA then erupted for five runs in the third, sending 11 batters to the plate.
Bryan Greene led off with a double and scored on a single by Ryan Dyke. Nate Cleaver and Bryce Greene each added RBI singles and another run scored on an error. Bryan Greene drew a bases-loaded walk to give his team a 7-1 lead.
The Eagles scored one run in both the fourth and fifth innings. They added three to end it with the mercy rule with two outs in the sixth. Eight different players recorded hits, eight scored runs and seven players drove in runs in a balanced offensive effort to support Comly, who was steady on the mound despite allowing seven hits.
Comly, Jeff Bennett and the BEA defense set up the chance to go home early.
The Eagles retired Blairsville in order in the fifth and sixth innings. With Bennett on the mound in the sixth, right fielder Jason Jones made an impressive diving catch in the right-center gap for the third out.
“We’ve been pretty good all year defensively,” Gettig said. “We had two errors, but that was just on that weird play in the fourth inning when the ball just kind of bounced around. It’s kind of been the story of the year so far, we kind of pride ourselves on defense.”
With a solid effort in the field, at the plate and on the mound, Gardner couldn’t ask for a better start to the Eagles’ postseason.
“That’s what you shoot for,” Gardner said, “execute all aspects of the game at a high level, and I believe we did that today.”