Penns Valley’s Luke Snyder doesn’t like pitching in relief, but he asked for the ball Monday against Bellefonte.
The Rams right-hander sat next to coach Jon Bowersox in the top of the fourth inning to tell him that he was ready. Snyder wanted to start on the mound before learning he was one of two relief options prior to boarding the bus. During their conversation in the top of the fourth inning, Bowersox asked if he was sure.
Snyder answered with confidence — he wanted to lead his team in a big game against Bellefonte, one of the top teams in the Mountain League this season. Snyder delivered on the mound and at the plate at the Rams beat the Red Raiders 4-3. He threw four scoreless innings of relief to earn the win and drove in the game-winning run on a single in the fifth inning.
“We never like losing to Bellefonte,” Snyder said. “Beating Bellefonte is always one of the best things. I’ve played three sports and haven’t beaten them yet this year.”
The Rams (5-8) came into Monday’s game on a hot streak, but Bowersox considered the matchup with Bellefonte (7-4) a measuring stick. After the win — Penns Valley’s fifth in six games — the coach believes his team has turned the corner. Penns Valley is producing at the plate, playing solid defense and receiving quality outings from their pitchers since earning their first win of the season 10 days ago.
And the Rams put together another strong effort against the Red Raiders.
Penns Valley’s Keith Butts came through with a two-run triple in a three-run third inning to tie the game, the Rams played flawless defense, and Snyder turned in a shutdown performance on the mound.
“I just think we started playing ball how we know we can, and that’s all we had to do,” Butts said. “At the beginning of the year, we weren’t doing that, and now we are.”
Bowersox called Snyder “Mr. Clutch” after the win. Snyder’s teammates doused him with ice during postgame interviews to celebrate.
Snyder, who started at catcher, replaced Rams pitcher Lucas Sharer on the mound with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Snyder said he tries not to think about fatigue when he goes from catching to pitching. With the score tied Monday, he said adrenaline took over.
“It does take a toll, but in these close games, I don’t even feel it until after I get home,” Snyder said. “So that’s when it really starts to hit me when I’m sitting at home cramping up.”
When Snyder took over on the mound, the runners immediately advanced to second and third on a sacrifice bunt. The Penns Valley right-hander then struck out Bellefonte’s CJ Funk to bring Logan Mathieu to the plate. Earlier in the game, Mathieu had hit a two-run home run, but Snyder looked to keep the ball outside against the powerful lefty.
Mathieu popped out to end the threat.
Snyder then broke the tie in the top of the fifth, sending a single through the left side of the infield to drive in Butts and give the Rams a 4-3 lead. Snyder ensured Penns Valley maintained that lead and clinched the win by stranding the tying run on third base.
When the Rams recorded the final out, Bowersox clapped as he made his way onto the field. The coach gave Snyder a hug. He pumped his fist and gave another clap while walking out to right field to address his team.
After Monday’s win, Bowersox feels his team is headed in the right direction.
“I’m hoping now that teams will see they’re going to have to play against us,” Bowersox said. “We’re no rollover anymore like we were in the beginning of the season.”