The tone for the evening was set by the game’s very first batter — on the game’s fourth pitch.
C.J. Funk clubbed the ball to center field, clearing the fence by 20 feet.
“That kind of punch in the mouth served us in the regular season,” said Funk’s father and manager, Eric. “Out here today it set the tone. It’s sets the tone in Little League. The way the game rolls, a lot of times, is between the ears and if you can get that little bit of (a) head start, it’s contagious.”
It was the first of five home runs — and 21 hits — collected by the Bellefonte Little League team, and with the help of a near no-hitter from Ben McCartney the team rocked Clearfield 18-0 in four innings Monday night to claim the District 5 11-12-year-old crown at Webster Fields.
With the district title, Bellefonte heads to the four-team Section 4 tournament, which begins Saturday at Big Valley’s fields in Belleville.
Bellefonte had offensive production from top-to-bottom in the lineup, with 10 different players collecting hits, and eight batters collecting multiple hits against three different Clearfield pitchers.
“We hit the ball — that simple,” Eric Funk said. “We found our confidence, which we’ve been missing a little bit. We figured out how to find it and we didn’t let go of it.”
The top of the lineup was most lethal, with the first four hitters combining to go 12 for 15 at the plate with five homers, 13 runs and 12 RBIs.
“They hit the ball real, real well,” Eric Funk said. “The guys throughout the order did what we needed them to do.”
C.J. Funk was 2 for 5, scoring two runs and knocking in two more. Colton Burd was 3 for 3 with four RBIs and scored four runs. McCartney was 4 for 4, scoring four times and plating a pair of runs. Ben McCafee was 3 for 3, scoring three times and sending in four runs.
“The whole order was just awesome,” Burd said. “We all came out and worked together and hit hard.”
Even the homers were impressive.
After Funk’s blast in the first, McCartney followed two batters later by bouncing a two-run shot off the roof of a pickup truck beyond the fence in center. McCafee found another pickup in center in the second inning with a three-run blast, and the first of Burd’s two, two-run cracks bounced off the concession stand well beyond the left-field fence.
“I haven’t hit one all districts,” Burd said. “I was just happy to get those two home runs.”
With the two homers in the first inning accompanying Nick Fisher’s RBI double, and Fisher scoring on a passed ball, Bellefonte rocketed to a 5-0 lead.
McCafee’s three-run shot ballooned the margin to 8-0 in the second, and Bellefonte was riding a wave of confidence.
“For us to jump out like that, that’s awesome,” Burd said.
It all backed the work of McCartney, who pitched a one-hitter as he had a solid mix of fastballs and curves.
“My curve ball makes my fastball way more effective,” McCartney said. “I don’t have a 70 mile-an-hour fastball, but when I throw my curve, my fastball — it’s a lot trickier.”
His no-hitter was spoiled with two out in the fourth inning on a single to left field from Cade Walker — the only ball to leave the infield for Clearfield.
McCartney walked one and hit a batter while striking out four.
“He has really good stuff and he was on it today,” Eric Funk said. “Which we were hoping for.”
McCartney said he knew he was working on a no-hitter, but he figured an 18-0 win was “good enough.
“I felt really good,” McCartney said. “The adrenaline was pumping — district game. It’s finals. It felt good.”