The peaceful sights and sounds of April baseball were loudly interrupted by an unmistakable thud.
Birds chirped, fans lightly bantered, balls pinged off bats. High school baseball’s soundtrack played without missing a beat.
Then, the undeniable sound of baseball meeting flesh.
“I followed through and had my head down and I heard the ball come off the bat,” said starting pitcher Nate Cleaver. “When I looked up it was already too late. I couldn’t do anything to stop it.”
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Up 5-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Cleaver was cruising to what would eventually become an 11-1 Bald Eagle Area victory over Penns Valley in six innings.
Then, the Rams’ Luke Weaver returned a fastball to sender. The ball caromed off Cleaver’s right ankle and trickled into left field for a two-out single.
The junior stayed in the game after limping off the mound, but walked the next two batters on eight pitches. When Logan Coursen came up next and singled in a run, it appeared Penns Valley (2-1) would make it a tight game.
However, the Rams couldn’t capitalize and Cleaver (1-0) wouldn’t allow another run.
“He did a nice job,” BEA head coach Jim Gardner said. “I could see a lot of determination in him out there today. He wanted it and he wanted it bad. He really went after it today.”
The junior also helped himself with three hits and two RBIs.
Conversely, Penns Valley head coach Chuck Romig didn’t like what he saw from his team.
“We clammed up and we played afraid today,” Romig said.
Left-handed hurler C.J. Johnson pitched well for the Rams, but got in trouble when his pitches sailed in the zone. When he did find control, his defense couldn’t make plays to end innings.
“Yeah, the plays weren’t made today, but that’s not what I’m upset about,” Romig said. “It’s the lack of moxie. That lack of enthusiasm … I think they played like ‘OK, this is Bald Eagle, we can’t make any mistakes.”
As the miscues mounted, the Rams’ confidence waned and heads pointed to the ground.
“I would love to say no, but I did. I saw that today,” Romig said of his team’s bowed heads. “And that was very shocking. … It was a whole team collapse and I’m responsible for that.”
BEA also played a role.
Cleaver, a junior, struck out four and scattered six hits.
Offensively, a disciplined Eagles lineup played small ball for most of the team’s 14 hits (11 singles), something Gardner’s group didn’t done in its loss to DuBois on Saturday.
The Eagles struggled with the Beavers’ left-handed pitching then, but feasted against the Rams.
“(Johnson) threw a little bit harder,” BEA right fielder Dylan Womer said. “We did a much better job today of hitting the ball, putting it in play and making them field.”
Six Eagles had multiple hits.
Womer went 2-for-3 and hit a double that scored a run in the Eagles’ five-run first. Bryan Greene (2-for-4) led off the game with a triple that one-hopped to the left-field fence. Logan Reese, Ben Verbitsky and Cole Long also had two hits each, with Reese and Long each driving in a run, and Ryan Dyke knocked in three.
“We came out today with a tremendous amount of focus and went right after it and executed in all aspects at a really high level,” Gardner said. “We got some breaks. We took advantrage of some things, but defensively I thought we played an outstanding game. We pitched a great game too. I couldn’t be happier with our effort today.”