Logan Mathieu knew Bellefonte beat State College on Saturday night when he saw his teammates jumping out of the dugout to celebrate.
The Red Raiders ran toward Mathieu, who drove in the game-winning run in his team’s 7-6, walk-off victory at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Mathieu tossed his helmet high into the air before his teammates greeted him behind first base, where the Red Raiders bounced up and down in excitement after outlasting the Little Lions in nine innings.
“I’ve seen all the pro guys do it, so might as well give it a try,” Mathieu said of his helmet toss.
State College and Bellefonte battled back-and-forth all night at the home of the State College Spikes and Penn State baseball, trading leads and momentum before heading to extra innings tied 6-6. The Red Raiders came out on top after Mathieu sent a chopper to the shortstop with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth — and the Little Lions couldn’t turn the tough double play.
Bellefonte pitcher Adam Armstrong allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings of relief to earn the win, and Tyler Kreger paced the Red Raiders (3-1) offensively with two hits. Eight Bellefonte players recorded hits, and seven players scored runs in the dramatic win.
“I just want to see them battle every pitch, every play,” Bellefonte coach Dan Fravel said. “That’s what they’re getting close to being able to do. You can see it in their eyes. It’s just a matter of now they got to practice with that same intensity so the ballgame feels the same and the game will slow down for ‘em.”
State College (1-3) couldn’t overcome five errors in the loss. State College coach Troy Allen looked out at the scoreboard after the game and expressed his surprise after the uncharacteristic performance by his defense.
“They’re a really good ball club and you can’t give five errors to a really good ball club,” Allen said. “It’s that simple.”
The Little Lions committed errors in each inning in which Bellefonte scored. Bellefonte’s Colton Burd sent a ground ball to third base and reached on a throwing error to start the bottom of the ninth inning. Burd came around to score the game-winning run after the Red Raiders loaded the bases and Mathieu drove him in with his ground ball.
Mathieu, the Red Raiders’ best hitter, stepped into the box to face Penn State signee Mason Mellott.
To have one of your best hitters against one of the best pitchers in the area, it couldn’t get any better than that — game on the line, bases loaded. Logan’s a great situational hitter. We just needed a ball in play.
Bellefonte baseball coach Dan Fravel
“To have one of your best hitters against one of the best pitchers in the area, it couldn’t get any better than that — game on the line, bases loaded,” Fravel said. “Logan’s a great situational hitter. We just needed a ball in play.”
Fravel said Mathieu bats second in the lineup to get him more at-bats, and he had a chance to win the game by simply putting the ball in play. Mathieu, who is headed to Liberty University in Virginia, wanted to drive the ball into the outfield for a sacrifice fly.
But he got on top of a curveball from Mellott and sent a ground ball to shortstop with the Little Lions middle infield playing for a double play.
“I’m not the fastest guy to run the bases by any means,” Mathieu said, “but I ran as hard as I could and hoped for the best.”
State College dropped the exchange at second base and never got to attempt to turn the double play — but it wasn’t a tailor-made double play ball. Allen admitted it would have been a tough play to execute, and Bellefonte earned the walk-off win on the same field where it won the PIAA Class AAA championship last June.
“There is great baseball right here in central Pa.,” Fravel said. “Pitchers throwing gas, players diving, making plays, putting their bodies in front of it. Hitters just executing offensively and just playing with passion. I think it represented the area really well.”