Bellefonte’s Ashton Wetzler isn’t afraid to let his emotions out when he’s on the mound.
He repeatedly yelled out “Let’s go” to himself after he struck out Blackhawk batters Monday during the opening round of the PIAA Class 4A Championships.
The senior pitcher let out one more loud, “Let’s go” after inducing a groundout to second baseman Nick Capparelle to finish off the Red Raiders’ 4-1 victory over the WPIAL runner-ups at BEA’s Doc Etters Field.
“You got to keep winning to keep playing,” Wetzler said. “We want to play another game. I want the season to end on a win. The only way to do do that is to keep moving forward and to keep winning.”
The Red Raiders are going on to the PIAA quarterfinals thanks in large part to a special run on the mound from Wetzler.
After striking out 13 batters without a walk in a shutout victory over Somerset in the District 5/6 title game, Wetzler fanned 12 Cougars without a walk. And his only run allowed was the unearned variety.
He lowered his ERA from 0.74 before Monday’s game to 0.66 after his impressive PIAA performance and his strikeouts per seven innings jumped from 8.9 to a gaudy 9.3 (84 Ks in 63.2 innings).
The Cougars tried to throw Wetzler off by faking bunts early in the game and by stepping out of the batter’s box and slowing their pace in the middle of the game.
None of their tactics worked as he retired 11 consecutive batters between the second and sixth innings before some slight turbulence in the sixth frame.
With two outs, shortstop Dylan Young had a throwing error on a late throw to first after Capparelle failed to cover second base on a potential inning-ending forceout.
Blackhawk’s John Malagise plated a run on a single one batter later, but Wetzler wiggled out of trouble by getting Ray Knallay to groundout to Capparelle.
“Ashton can beat anyone at the plate, no matter who it is,” Young said. “I had full confidence he would get out of it.”
Young and the Red Raiders’ lineup came up with all four runs in the bottom of the second inning.
Bobby Marsh and C.J. Lauck each drew walks and Colton Burd got hit by a pitch, which set the table for Young.
He laced a two-run double on a one-hopper to the left-center field wall before Capparelle chased him home with a single over shortstop.
Bellefonte coach Jon Clark had used Derek Fravel as a designated hitter for Young toward the end of the season, but a 13-day layoff between their district title (May 22) and their opening round PIAA game gave Young extra time to work on his hitting.
Clark pulled the right strings on Monday, inserting Young back into the lineup and using Fravel as the DH for his pitcher.
“In practice, I’ve been working on some things and I’ve tried to figure things out,” Young said. “It seems to be going well so far.”
Bellefonte advances to Thursday’s PIAA quarterfinal where they’ll take on East Pennsboro at a time and venue to be determined.
The Red Raiders defeated East Pennsboro 15-4 in the opening round of last season’s PIAA playoffs.
Clark won’t have Wetzler at his disposal Thursday, but he’s confident in his four potential pitching options — C.J. Funk, Bobby Marsh, Seth Shuey, and Fravel.
“They’ve thrown for us a whole bunch this year. That’s a nice thing,” Clark said of his four choices. “After our No. 1 (Wetzler), we’ve used a lot of those guys throughout the year. A lot will depend on how practice looks like the next couple days.”