With the bases loaded and no outs, Bellefonte’s Storm Smith stepped to the plate with a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Smith was looking to put the ball in play and sent the third pitch he saw back up the middle. The single scored pinch-runner Zach Musser to lift the Red Raiders to a 6-5 victory over Bald Eagle Area on Thursday.
Smith’s teammates surrounded him to celebrate the walk-off win. And they chanted his name when they gathered in the dugout.
“Coming through for the team like that, it means a lot,” Smith said. “It does. It means a lot to me and I’d go to the ends of the earth for those guys.”
Bellefonte’s Nick Jabco pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, facing two jams in the final two innings and limiting the damage to earn the win. Logan Mathieu finished 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs to lead the Red Raiders offensively.
The Eagles (7-11) battled back from an early four-run deficit to tie it heading into the bottom of the seventh, but they also left five runners on base in the final two innings. Bald Eagle Area left 12 on base for the game.
Bellefonte (11-5) scored four runs against BEA pitcher Kody Hamer in the second inning to take a 5-1 lead.
After back-to-back one-out singles, Bellefonte’s Tanner Helms laid down a sacrifice bunt. A high throw pulled Bald Eagle Area first baseman Noah Chambers off the bag and Helms reached safely to load the bases.
Trent Fortney followed with an RBI single and Taylor Butts was hit by a pitch to score another run. Mathieu added a one-run single before Adam Kuhn’s RBI fielder’s choice made it 5-1.
“We hurt ourselves there a little bit,” BEA coach Jim Gardner said. “And we didn’t cash in all day when we had opportunities.”
Bald Eagle Area sliced into the lead after a two-run single by Hamer in the fourth. The Eagles then put together a two-out rally in the sixth.
Brandon Gettig lined a single into right field and Ryan Guenot drew a walk, ending Bellefonte starter Kyler Mellott’s day after 5 2/3 innings with the Red Raiders still holding a 5-3 lead.
Jabco replaced Mellott and hit BEA’s Jason Jones to load the bases. A wild pitch allowed Gettig to score to cut Bellefonte’s lead to 5-4, and Chambers walked to reload the bases.
Trey Butterworth then battled Jabco to a full count, seeing 10 pitches and fouling off six before lining out to right field on the 11th pitch. Jabco walked off the mound and gave a fist pump as the Red Raiders remained ahead.
“Bald Eagle, they’re going to put together a squad that will make you work, absolutely, and we didn’t expect anything less,” Bellefonte coach Jeremy Rellinger said. “They got quality kids over there that know how to compete.”
The Eagles pulled even and threatened to take the lead in the seventh.
Dylan Burns drew a leadoff walk and Colton Comly followed with a single to right field.
BEA’s Travis Reese, who replaced Burns as a courtesy runner, scored to tie the game 5-5 after two errors on the play, and Comly raced around to third with no outs. But Jabco stopped the rally by striking out Alex Struble and Gettig before getting a fielder’s choice groundout to end the inning.
“I felt like we had the right guys up to get it done and it didn’t happen,” Gardner said. “Man, that’s what we’ve been looking for and we started to come around and we’ve been doing much better at it but it sure would have been great to get it done today.”
The Red Raiders put the game away in the bottom of the seventh.
Mathieu led off with a single and was replaced by Musser on first. Kuhn doubled and Jonny Glunt was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Smith then singled to drive in the game-winning run.
“We got a group full of confident kids,” Rellinger said. “If they can manage the strike zone and keep their eye on the ball to the bat, hey good things can happen.”
Smith struck out twice and walked in his previous three at bats against Hamer before getting the big hit.
“I’ve faced him (Hamer) all my life and he’s a great pitcher and every time I face him, he always seems to get me,” Smith said. “You get in there and you swing the bat and sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. I just happened to get lucky.”