After his Bellefonte Area High School baseball team lost its first five games and seven of eight to open the season, Raiders coach Dan Fravel probably wasn’t thinking about an appearance in the District 6 Class AAA title game.
The defending district champions had more immediate concerns.
“We had an 0-5 start and everything you could imagine went wrong,” Fravel said after Bellefonte blanked top-seeded Somerset 2-0 to keep a fantastic turnaround moving forward.
“We couldn’t catch, throw or hit. We just kind of refocused and just one game at a time focused on the basics with the pitchers, throwing strikes as a starting point. The defense has been solid all year long. The offense slowly has been grinding to get to the point where we’re at.”
Since the miserable start, Bellefonte has evened its record at 11-11 and will play the Hollidaysburg-Huntingdon winner in the District 6 AAA championship game next week.
Somerset closed a 13-5 season that included a Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference title. For a second straight season, the Golden Eagles ended with a loss to the Raiders, who won in the 6-AAA championship game against Somerset in 2015.
“You’ve got to be happy with the season,” Somerset coach Steve Costea said. “LHAC champs. We came out 13-5 overall. It is what it is. I’m happy where we’re at. You always want to be moving on. Our goal at Somerset is to be playing for a district title every year. It just didn’t happen.”
Bellefonte scored single runs in the second and fifth innings, the first one unearned.
Sophomore left-hander Adam Armstrong worked four solid innings, scattering five hits while striking out two and walking one.
Division I Morehead State recruit Dom Masullo, a big right-hander, entered in the fifth inning. After allowing a single up the middle to the first batter he faced, Somerset’s No. 9 hitter Morgan Bell, Masullo recorded nine straight outs.
“We kept Dom available and took him out after three (innings) the other night (against Greater Johnstown),” Fravel said. “Adam is a sophomore who throws two pitches, including a 12-6 curveball that is really tough to handle and catches guys off guard.
“We knew that he could throw a complete game if needed, but the momentum seemed right that we’d switch it up with Dom. The team plays real well behind him.”
Two Somerset errors led to Cade Fortney scoring Bellefonte’s first run in the second inning. Tyler Kreger singled and a tiring Coyle walked three batters to plate another run in the fifth. Somerset pitcher Austin Clawson entered and got an infield fly out, then caught a pop up on a bunt and fired to third for an inning-ending double play.
“We preached all year, pitching, defense and timely hitting,” Costea said.
“We had the pitching today. George Coyle and Austin Clawson pitched very, very well. Super job. The defense let us down one inning. We booted the ball around a little bit and gave them one run.
“The second run, I’ll take (responsibility). George wanted the ball. I’ll give him the ball any time he wants it, so the second run is on me.”
Coyle had two of Somerset’s six hits. The Eagles had two hits in the first inning, singles by Bryce Funa and Coyle, but Bellefonte used a double play to end the threat. Somerset stranded six runners — four in scoring position, with three of those at third base.
“The timely hitting was a big thing,” Costea said. “We had (six) hits and we just couldn’t string anything together.
“They’re a solid, solid baseball team,” Costea said of Bellefonte. “They’re fundamentally sound.”