Strong pitching and timely hitting has Philipsburg one win away from the championship series.
Jake Belinda was solid on the mound, and a long five-run fourth inning gave the Spike Island Pirates a 7-5 win over the Pleasant Gap Peppers on Tuesday evening at Governor’s Park in the Centre County Baseball League semifinals.
The Pirates lead the series 2-0 and can close out the best-of-five series at home Thursday.
Belinda struck out seven, walked three and allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings to earn the win.
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“That was maybe the best I’ve ever seen from him,” Philipsburg manager Drew Bryan said. “I know he’s capable of that.”
Belinda wriggled out of trouble several times unscathed.
The Peppers left 11 runners on base in the game, including loading the bases with no runs in the fourth inning and putting runners at second and third without scoring in the fifth.
“We got some guys on base,” Pleasant Gap manager Tony Rider said. “The problem was we left them there too. We had the bases loaded and we just couldn’t get them in.”
Philipsburg took the lead in the second when Parker Watson doubled off the glove of third baseman Trey Burger and scored on Nate Kerlin’s single up the middle.
The big inning was the fifth, however, when the Pirates sent 11 batters to the plate, scoring five runs on three hits but with the help of three errors and two walks, including one to Robbie Smith with the bases loaded. Brandon Quay followed with a two-run single before errors led to more scoring.
“We eliminate some of those errors,” Rider said, “this is a different ballgame. ... We haven’t had problems all year, but the wheels came off that one inning.”
Philipsburg padded the lead in the seventh when Derek Shaw reached on an error — Pleasant Gap made five on the evening — and scored on Quay’s fly out to center field.
The Peppers began to rally when Burger singled and later scored on a Cory Cunningham ground out in the sixth. Belinda, who had a cut on a finger on his pitching hand, was chased in favor of Isaac Knepp.
The Pepper bats then got hot in the bottom of the seventh when Devin Alterio doubled deep to left-center. Dan Roan, who took the loss, had his fly ball to right dropped, and with one out Burger singled to load the bases. Jon Romine’s fly ball scored one run, and Tyler Lalli then had the biggest blast of the day with a three-run homer to right-center.
“We knew being up 7-1 going into the last inning wasn’t enough,” Bryan said. “We had to play defense, we had to pitch. This team can hit the ball. All year long they’ve battled.”
The Pirates brought in Watson, who is scheduled to start Thursday. He walked a batter before getting a strikeout to end the game and earn the save.
“I was proud of the guys for not giving up,” Rider said. “We could have easily packed it in.”
With both teams having to scratch out runs, it was a contrast to Sunday’s series opener, which featured a combined 25 hits in a 16-9 Philipsburg win.
“Last game we had a lot of hits, the ball jumped,” Bryan said. “Today we had to play a lot of small ball, hit the ball through the holes. This was the kind of game I thought the series was going to be.”