When the Bellefonte and Bald Eagle Area baseball teams squared off Tuesday afternoon at Doc Etters Field, it marked the first of two head-to-head battles for baseball bragging rights in the valley.
Trailing 1-0 after five complete innings of play, the Red Raiders tied the game in the top of the sixth before plating a pair of runs in the seventh to walk off with a 3-1 win.
“The kids went up there to hit,” Red Raiders coach Jeremy Rellinger of the seventh inning. “Sometimes they come through and sometimes they don’t. Fortunately for us in that seventh inning they put some hits together. That was the time we needed it and it happened.”
Clinging to the 1-0 lead, BEA coach Jim Gardner was well aware of what could, and in this case, did happen when you allow a team to hang around.
“A one-run lead is never a comfortable lead in high school ball,” Gardner said. “The difference in the game was their starting pitcher (lefty Logan Mathieu). He threw one heckuva game. He threw pitches for strikes and you couldn’t look for a certain pitch in a given count because he mixed up his pitches real well. He was throwing 3-1 curveballs, 3-2 curveballs and he even threw his breaking pitches when he was behind in the count. You have to hand it to him. I thought he pitched an amazing game.”
With Eagle Ryan Guenot and Mathieu matching each other pitch-for-pitch, the game remained scoreless through the first two innings until the Eagles scored their only run in the third.
BEA (3-2) manufactured the marker when Dylan Burns led off with a base on balls, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Gettig and continued to third on a Red Raider error.
With Guenot at the plate, Burns scampered home with the lone Eagle run on the back end of a double steal attempt.
Although pitching out of trouble several times after issuing four walks in the first four innings, Guenot’s wildness at times caught up with him in the sixth.
Taylor Butts walked, moved to second when Mathieu was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Guenot issued a bases-loaded walk to Zach Musser.
Held to just one hit through six innings, the Raiders picked up three safeties in the seventh to take care of business.
With one out, Tanner Helms singled to left, Trent Fortney was hit by a pitch from BEA reliever Kody Hamer and Helms scored the tie-breaker when Butts rapped an RBI single to left.
Complementing what he had done on the mound, Mathieu drove in an insurance run with an RBI double to centerfield.
“He (Mathieu) worked the count very well in that at-bat,” Rellinger said. “He got a fastball on a 3-0 count and he didn’t miss it. He did the job on that one. Overall, our players showed pretty good patience at the plate and when you do that, you see more pitches and that makes a big difference late in the game.”
Mathieu scattered five BEA hits, allowing just the one run while striking out eight and walking four.
“I always tend to walk one or two batters early on and then come back and shut them out in clutch innings,” Mathieu said. “I kind of worked in all three of my pitches, the fastball, changeup and curve. The changeup wasn’t working that well for me, but the curveball was working real nice for me today.”
Guenot allowed only a fourth-inning Mathieu hit in his six innings, but only the seven free passes wound up hurting him in the end.
“I thought he (Guenot) pitched well also and we played good defense,” said Gardner. “What we always talk about is being able to execute all three aspects of the game and today we didn’t do it with the bats. I truly believe that we have a nice hitting ball club, one through nine, but the bottom line is that we just didn’t get it done today.”
Showing some fatigue after throwing 104 pitches, Mathieu surrendered a leadoff single to Alex Struble in the bottom of the seventh.
“Everyone has that kind of hit-the-wall thing,” said Mathieu about the start of the seventh inning. “For me, I just kind of hit it with the first batter in the seventh inning.”
Nick Jabco relieved Mathieu and gave up an immediate single to give the Eagles a first-and-second situation with nobody out, but he settled in to retire the next three Eagle batters on two ground ball outs sandwiched around a strikeout to preserve the win and pick up a save.
“Both of our pitchers threw well today,” Rellinger said. “It was one of those games where you like to sit back and watch those pitchers work like that. High-schoolers are going to have their ups and downs like anyone else, but today I thought that both teams were really on point today. It was just a good battle.”