After Taylor Smith’s dominant pitching performance helped earn Bellefonte a 10-1 victory over Penns Valley on a cold, blustery Thursday; the Red Raiders’ ace went back to work.
Striking out 10 and scattering seven hits in six innings of one-run baseball doesn’t mean you can skip out on chores.
“Yeah, I was feeling really good (today) actually,” Smith said with rake in hand after combing the third baseline after the game. “I’ve been working on a lot of things lately and it really came together today.”
In addition to escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second inning that thwarted a Ram opportunity, Smith (3-for-4) also led the Raiders at the plate.
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“Sometimes it transfers from defense to offense,” Bellefonte head coach Jeremy Rellinger said. “When you’re feeling the flow on the mound and you’re just kind of going up to the plate nice and loose, for him that’s pretty important.”
However, it was the senior captain’s right arm and not his bat that proved most crucial in the victory.
After a 1-2-3 first inning in which Smith (2-1) struck out two, his teammates battered Penns Valley starter Cameron Tobias for five runs.
Tobias, who would eventually settle in after the first, paid dearly for leaving pitches up in the zone.
Tanner Day (2-for-4) started the assault with a leadoff double on a high fastball. Andrew Stover (2-for-4) followed with a single off more high heat. Then, Doylan Deitrich mashed a double into the left field gap that plated Day.
After Dan Roan reached on a drive that was misplayed in left field, Ethan White (2-for-2) doubled off another elevated offering.
“I told them until we start playing solid defense and making outs when they need to be made, and finding more consistent contact (hitting), wins are going to be tough to come by,” Penns Valley coach Chuck Romig said.
Tobias showed some fight, finally taming his power to strike out Brandon Shuey looking to end the inning.
Then Tobias earned a leadoff walk in the second. After singles by Luke Weaver and Kevin Butts (2-for-4), the Rams had Smith in trouble.
He responded by striking out the next two batters.
“That’s the bulldog mentality I think he has,” Rellinger said. “His mentality is to just get right back at it.
“He’s not going to quit at all and that’s just the mentality (needed) from the No. 1 pitcher.”
Smith would relinquish a single run in the inning after a misinterpreted call by the home plate umpire.
With a 3-0 count to Colton Treaster, Smith buried a fastball into Stover’s mitt. The umpire, whose strike cadence was frequently slow and muted, caused some confusion by hesitating on the call. Treaster tossed his bat and headed to first while Tobias trotted home thinking four balls gave him safe passage.
However, the call was a strike and because the ball was still live, Tobias touched home and was credited with a run. After the confusion, Romig politely asked the umpire to quicken his calls.
Smith made the momentary confusion irrelevant with two subsequent strikes to Treaster.
“He has a great frame of mind,” Rellinger said of Smith. “It’s his game and he knows he’s in control. When you have your No. 1 pitcher with that kind of mindset, you’re going to be feeling pretty good about yourselves.”
From there it was all Raiders, who finished with 13 hits.
Bellefonte plated two in the third, then got two more when Tanner Light (2-for-4, three RBIs) doubled in the fourth.
Though the score got out of hand, Romig believes he learned something important about his team.
“It’s not easy when you lose,” Romig said. “And losing like this is not easy. But I think compared to other losses, we have some positive things to work on.
“Cam could have folded. He could have lost his composure. He didn’t.”
Junior Adam DeGarmo pitched two innings in relief of Tobias, struck out three and baffled a few others.
“I was really happy with Adam DeGarmo at the end there,” Romig said. “I’m happy to get him into a situation where it wasn’t high pressure. But the next one he’s in might be high pressure because of his performance (today). I’m glad he got a chance. He showed me something today.”
The Rams host Philipsburg-Osceola on Friday. Bellefonte will host Tyrone.
“One of our keys coming into this season was we were returning some experience,” Rellinger said. “So anytime you get some experience, that helps your level of confidence. And when you’re confident you tend to be a little more ready to play.
“If we’re in that frame of mind where we know we can hang and that confidence is up, we’re going to do well.”