As the chilly temperatures seemed to affect fans in attendance of the 10th annual BJ Wetzler softball tournament, it seemed to affect Bellefonte’s offense, too.
The Lady Red Raiders didn’t tally their first run of the tournament until the first inning of their second game — an 11-4 consolation victory over Juniata at the O’Leary Fields on Saturday.
It also didn’t help that Bellefonte opened the tournament with a tough 1-0 loss to Conemaugh Valley — last year’s District 6 Class A champion and the PIAA Class A runner up in 2015.
“The pitcher did a great job. The team did a great job,” Lady Red Raiders coach Fred Caldwell said of the Lady Bluejays. “They are a very good team. They’ve done well the last couple of years. They haven’t lost much and I’m sure they will do well this year.”
Bellefonte had prolific pitcher Tara Baney in the circle, but Conemaugh Valley countered with its own ace in Mel Lint.
The duo combined for 23 strikeouts, five walks and just three hits.
The Lady Red Raiders struggled offensively, unable to get a runner past second base the entire game. They had someone there on four different occasions but couldn’t get the needed hit off of Lint.
Lint’s line finished at 12 strikeouts, one walk, one hit batter and two hits given up in a complete game shutout.
“She did a great job of getting ahead early. Then, she came back with a rise whenever she had two strikes,” Caldwell said. “We didn’t adjust. We continued to chase her riseball when it was out of the (strike) zone. That is something we need to work on and get better at. We also could’ve bunted earlier. We wanted to try to give everybody at least once through the lineup to see what they could do with the faster pitching. They didn’t do terrible so some of them we let them continue to swing. As a team, we probably could’ve started bunting earlier and trying to get small ball and play a little more.”
The Bluejays tallied just one hit, but it was a walk in the top of the seventh inning led to the winning run. Conemaugh Valley executed a perfect suicide squeeze by Makenzie Stiffler that scored Tessa Gunby, who drew that walk, for the run.
Seconds before the play, Baney alerted her teammates to the possibility of a squeeze.
“We were in the game until the end of the game,” Caldwell said, “that’s all you can ask as a coach. We will win our share of those games.”
Bellefonte hitters entered the consolation game against the Lady Indians still acclimated to the heat that Lint was throwing. The Lady Red Raiders took a little time to adjust to Juniata’s Abby Adair, but eventually they poured it on.
In the third inning, Bellefonte brought nine runs across the plate with two outs on the board.
Alexis Wetzler, the niece of the late BJ Wetzler, started off with a single to left field. She went on to score on a throwing error on the Lady Indians’ catcher.
Following back-to-back outs, Rianna Trexler got things rolling with a liner to center field. Jenna Ault followed with a double to the left-center field gap to score Trexler.
A single from Emma Dehaas preceded Emily Pugh reaching on an error to load the bases for Lissi Przybys, who knocked in a run with one of her four singles in the game.
Mallorie Smith collected an RBI single before Wetzler was back at the plate. Wetzler reached base again thanks to another Juniata error, and Angela Capparelle followed by reaching base on another error. Baney capped the scoring with a two-run single.
“It did take us a while to adjust,” Caldwell said of the second game. “We were all geared up for the faster pitching. Once we got adjusted, we hit well. I was really pleased with everybody. As a team, they did very well. We got all of our bench in, that was one of my goals. It was two good games for us.”