Bald Eagle Area pitcher Jeff Bennett took a deep breath as he leaned in for the sign from catcher Bryan Greene in the fifth inning.
Fatigue was starting to set in for the lefty.
After firing a fastball by Bellefonte’s Vance Przybys to force a full count, he left the next pitch up for a walk. Bennett recovered to strike out Mark Armstrong and battled Andrew Stover to a full count before getting a groundout to third base to end the inning. He walked off the mound with the Eagles’ three-run lead intact, knowing he did enough to give his team a chance on a day he wasn’t at his best.
“I wanted to end on a good note,” Bennett said. “I didn’t want to come out in the last inning. I threw over 150 pitches, didn’t want to tire myself out for next week, so I got to be smart about that with my arm and move on from here.”
Bennett walked five and allowed five runs in five innings to help Bald Eagle Area to an 11-5 win over Bellefonte on Monday. Bennett also struck out six in a game delayed nearly 50 minutes by rain and called after six innings due to darkness. The Eagles (5-3) scored seven runs in the third inning, thanks to three Red Raiders’ errors. Bryce Greene went 3 for 3, and Nate Cleaver went 3 for 4 to lead Bald Eagle Area. For Bellefonte (2-4), shortstop Doylan Deitrich finished 4 for 4 with a run and an RBI.
Bald Eagle Area coach Jim Gardner was pleased with the win, pointing out Bennett’s performance and the Eagles’ three-run sixth inning as positives. But Bald Eagle Area also left nine on base and failed to capitalize in the first inning after getting runners on second and third with no outs.
“When we have the opportunity to finish games off, we need to do that,” Gardner said. “Because you never know on days like this what could happen.”
Bellefonte took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run single by Jonathan Glunt.
But the Red Raiders fell apart in the third inning.
Bryce Greene and Bryan Greene were each hit by Bellefonte’s Noah Perryman to get the Eagles started with one out. Ryan Dyke followed with a line drive to left field that rolled to the wall after an error by Bellefonte’s Derek Fries. The Greenes scored to tie it, and Dyke dove safely into third base.
Cleaver drove Dyke home with a single to give Bald Eagle Area a 3-2 lead.
The Eagles’ inning appeared to be over on Brandon Gettig’s ground ball to shortstop, but Deitrich threw it away and Cleaver scored to push the lead to two runs. By the end of the inning, after another Bellefonte error, Bald Eagle Area led 7-2.
“That’s been something that we’ve had problems with is giving games away with errors,” Bellefonte coach Jeremy Rellinger said. “That’s something we need to absolutely clean up both mentally and physically.”
Bellefonte cut the deficit to four in the bottom of the third on Glunt’s sacrifice fly.
The Red Raiders sliced the lead to three in the fourth inning with the help of two Bald Eagle Area errors.
Armstrong led off with a single, and Stover reached on an error by Bryce Greene at shortstop to give Bellefonte first and third with no outs. A balk by Bennett scored Armstrong, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 8-4. And Deitrich later singled to left field to score another run, reached third base on an error and clapped emphatically before rain delayed the Bellefonte rally.
“The key is can we not get behind and have to fight through it so often,” Rellinger said. “We just got to keep ourselves composed earlier so that we can have a better chance later.”
When play resumed, Bennett ended the fourth with a flyout. He then struck out two in a scoreless fifth before Gardner pulled him.
The lefty has emerged as the team’s ace with Cleaver unable to pitch due to injury. And though he admittedly wasn’t as sharp as previous outings, he helped his team to the win.
“He wants the ball and he didn’t want to give up the ball really,” Gardner said. “I just felt he had thrown enough pitches. He’s around the plate, he mixes his pitches well. Maybe today wasn’t his best day but even though it wasn’t his best day, he won it, and that’s important.
“Because that’s the way the game goes. You never know what you’re gonna have whether you’re a pitcher or hitter or fielder. Baseball’s a crazy game like that, and he came out and got a win for us.”