When a baseball team executes all three aspects of the game well, it usually comes out with a win.
For Penns Valley, that was pretty much the picture painted by the Rams as they jumped off to a 2-0 lead before holding off cross-county rival Bellefonte down the stretch for a 2-1 win Thursday afternoon.
“This is the first time this season that we put all three phases together,” Penns Valley coach Chuck Romig said. “When you play errorless defense, get strong pitching and although we didn’t hit well, our hits were timely. When you put all three of those things together, good things happen.”
The game also came down to pitching, with Rams starter Davey Keller and reliever L. J. Johnson outdueling the Red Raiders’ Jeremy Warfield.
“You have to give a lot of credit to the pitchers,” Bellefonte coach Jeremy Rellinger said. “Both pitchers threw well to keep the opposition’s offense in check. We wanted to put a little pressure on (Keller) at several points in time, but they executed the game.”
Keller, who had a no-hitter through the first four innings, worked the first five innings plus two batters before Johnson came on to retire six of the eight Raider batters he faced to earn the save.
“It pressured me a little bit because it is additional runners on base,” Keller said of the walks. “I just kept trying to throw strikes and the ones they did end up hitting, our defense cleaned them up perfectly to help me do my job. I really didn’t get tired. I just think we needed a change to give them something different to look at. My arm felt good and I felt I could keep going, but as it turned out, it was a good change to make it more difficult on their batters.”
Although he held the Raiders at bay, Keller had some control problems as he walked five Raiders while hitting another. For the game, the lefty only allowed the Raiders a pair of hits, striking out two.
“That (situational hitting) is something that a lot of high school hitters don’t grasp,” said Romig. “That is the mature part of hitting and you have to be confident enough in your ability to do it. Davey (Keller) has enough sneaky stuff that he will walk a couple of guys, but will also make enough good pitches to get outs in those situations.”
Penns Valley jumped on top 1-0 in their first at-bat when Keller was safe on an error and later scored on an RBI single to left by Logan Marcom. Two innings later, the Rams plated what would turn out to be the game-winner when Chase Collison opened the frame with a base on balls before sprinting home on an RBI double to left by Wyatt Sharp.
After the Raiders scored their only run on a walk to Taylor Butts followed by an RBI double by Logan Mathieu in the sixth with nobody out, Johnson settled in to preserve the win.
“He (Johnson) was going to start (at Bald Eagle Area on Friday) but we needed this game so we decided to go with him,” Romig said. “It is a luxury to have someone like him to come in late in the game and throw strikes. He has been there before and he got the job done.”
While the Ram duo only allowed two Bellefonte hits, that is all Raider pitcher Jeremy Warfield allowed as well as he went the distance to absorb the tough-luck loss.
As for his team’s lack of situational hitting to take advantage of the free passes, Rellinger feels that will come around.
“We think that over the course of time as we get comfortable in those situations to where we are willing to take pitches and battle deep in the count,” he said. “That will definitely help us in the long run and we (Bellefonte) coaches are happy with the approach the kids are taking. I just told the guys we are right where we want to be. We want to put ourselves in a position to pull off a win and we were right there today.”