Sporting large bags of ice on his elbow and forearm, Phil Fenstermacker stood on the diamond having completed two important jobs for Bellefonte on Monday.
Job one was to lead the Red Raiders to an 11-5 baseball victory over Penns Valley.
The second was to work deep into the game to help rest a rotation that will face an arduous schedule due to this season’s inclement weather.
“We’re at about the time in the season where an outing like that from our pitcher, going quite a distance in the game, was key for us to get started this week,” coach Jeremy Rellinger said. “We needed that.”
The sophomore gave up five runs, eight hits and six strikeouts in six innings of work.
What Fenstermacker gave up in runs, his teammates more than made up for in support.
The Raiders (4-2) started with a three-run first inning authored by the bats of Dan Roan (2-for-5, RBI) and Taylor Butts (3-for-4, three RBIs).
After Tanner Day (2-for-5) hit a leadoff single and Doylan Deitrich (2-for-4, two runs scored) walked, Roan hit an RBI single to left field off the first pitch from Rams starter L.J. Johnson.
Butts would later plate Deitrich and Roan on a two-run double mashed into center.
The Rams (3-4) would respond swiftly, when Cameron Tobias knocked in a run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning. Luke Weaver (2-for-3, two RBIs) tied the game two batters later with a two-run double to right.
However, Penns Valley would have trouble mustering another multiple-run rally.
“No, I’m not pleased (because) it needs to improve,” Rams head coach Chuck Romig said when asked about his team’s offense netting five runs.
“We need to be able to square up more than one ball every inning. We need to start bunching some hits. That’s really been an issue for us for the past four games.”
Meanwhile, Bellefonte’s offense continued to put the ball in play. And when the Raiders’ bats weren’t finding openings, the Rams’ defense was struggling to finish plays.
The Rams finished with just one error, but a few pop-fly miscues led to freebies for the Raiders.
Bellefonte finished with 14 hits to eight for Penns Valley.
“If we don’t field the ball we’re not going to win,” Romig said plainly. “We can’t play with three or four errors a game it wears on the pitchers, it wears on the fielders.”
Romig seemed baffled by what he called his team’s lack of confidence on defense.
“We field hundreds of fungoes in practice and we look good,” Romig said. “I just don’t know what it is. I don’t have any answers. Not right now anyway. I’ll come up with one tonight.”
In contrast, Rellinger likes his team’s play and its confidence.
“Yeah, we’re hitting the ball and feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Rellinger said.
Butts came up for Bellefonte again in the fourth with the bases loaded as a raucous chant emanated from the Raiders’ dugout: “Butts, Butts, Butts!” his teammates shouted.
The sophomore responded with a hard shot to right field that was caught but scored Jordan Fye from third. Fye also had a good day, going 3-for-4 from the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored.
“There’s good camaraderie on the whole team,” Rellinger said. “Taylor Butts is one of those guys who we can really feed off the type of energy that he’s bringing.”
That energy and emotion will be key for Bellefonte as it prepares for a compressed schedule. The Red Raiders play three times this week (against DuBois on Tuesday and at Philipsburg-Osceola on Thursday) and four next week.
A few more six-inning outings like Fenstermacker put together could be helpful.
He doesn’t seem worried about pitch counts or pitching in cold weather.
“I’ve been pitching since Dec. 1,” Fenstermacker said. “Your arm has to be ready for it. If your arm’s not ready for it then you’re going to get through three innings and you’re going to be done.”
When asked how his arm felt after six innings and a pitch count in the 90s in chilly weather, the sophomore cracked a youthful grin.
“Right now it feels all right with the ice on it, but tomorrow morning I think I’m going to wake up and feel it a little,” he said. “That’s how it always is. But I’m used to it I’ll be ready next time.”