Bellefonte’s Tyler Kreger knew what was at stake before he took the mound late in the game Tuesday against Bald Eagle Area.
His teammates started hinting about Red Raiders starting pitcher Adam Armstrong’s no-hitter in the top of the sixth inning. Armstrong had finished his day when he walked off the mound after the bottom of the fifth inning, and Bellefonte turned to Kreger to close out the game in the bottom of the sixth. Once Kreger began to warm up, teammate Logan Mathieu was particularly vocal, telling him the pressure was on.
Kreger completed the combined no-hitter as Bellefonte earned a 13-0 win over the Eagles in six innings.
“My teammates did a good job of letting me know that if I let up a hit, I’d ruin Adam’s no-hitter,” said Kreger, who allowed one walk in his one inning of work.
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Armstrong struck out nine and walked three in five innings to earn the win, baffling the Eagles (3-4) with his fastball and curveball from start to finish. Mathieu provided the highlight at the plate for the Red Raiders (6-2) with a two-run home run, contributing to a 12-hit effort that included two five-run innings. Bellefonte coach Dan Fravel said he planned to keep Armstrong under 75 pitches going into the game, and the coach greeted him with a smile and let his pitcher know he was done after five innings.
Armstrong understood Fravel’s decision — the left-hander wasn’t concerned with finishing the no-hitter. The Bellefonte pitcher deflected credit to his teammates.
“It wasn’t really about me,” Armstrong said with a bag of ice on his left shoulder after the game. “The defense behind me had me all the way.”
Bald Eagle Area went into Tuesday’s game expecting to see Armstrong.
The Eagles knew what to expect after facing the Red Raiders lefty last season — Armstrong pitched a complete game in a 9-2 win that day in Wingate — and they prepared for his curveball. BEA coach Jim Gardner said a left-handed assistant coach threw to the team during the last two practices, even mixing in curveballs Monday knowing Armstrong relies on that pitch as much as his fastball.
Still, Armstrong turned in a dominant effort to improve to 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA this season.
“I feel like we prepared as best we could,” Gardner said, “but preparing and practicing, and going out and executing in the game is a different thing.”
Kreger, Bellefonte’s leadoff hitter who went 2 for 4 Tuesday, knows what it’s like to face Armstrong. He’s faced him a couple times during team scrimmages and admits the left-hander owns the advantage in those battles.
Kreger said Armstrong can work “his magic on the mound” with that breaking ball.
“He’s tough to hit because that curveball’s in the back of your mind,” Kreger said. “His fastball’s good enough to get you, too.”
Kreger, the team’s third baseman, noticed Armstrong was pitching a no-hitter in the fourth or fifth inning when he looked at the scoreboard to see the Red Raiders’ number of hits. Armstrong said he realized it in the fourth inning, but he didn’t think about it much. His teammates didn’t mention his no-hitter to him while he was on the mound.
But they were quick to remind Kreger when he entered in relief. Fravel wanted to give Kreger some more work as he plans to use the right-hander as the team’s closer this season.
And Kreger preserved the no-hitter Tuesday.
“He’s just different,” Fravel said, referring to Kreger. “He throws a real sharp breaking ball, comes off of third base with a lot of confidence, and he’s a competitor. And that’s what we want out there at the end of a game.”