Teams can make mistakes and still pull out a win, as long as they can avoid the big mistakes.
For Bellefonte, it made two errors in the field, but it was two timely wild pitches while batting in a pitcher’s duel that helped the Red Raiders on Wednesday.
Bellefonte scored the game-winning run on one of those wild pitches to secure a 2-1 District 6 Class AAA championship victory over Somerset at Peoples Natural Gas Field at Blair County Ballpark.
It was the eighth district crown for Bellefonte and ended the reign of the Eagles, who came in as the two-time defending champions. Bellefonte advances to play the loser of West Allegheny- Knoch in the first round of the PIAA playoffs at a site and time to be determined.
“They are an exciting group of kids,” Red Raiders coach Jeremy Rellinger said. “They are excited to win that’s for sure. These guys were excited about it since the outset of the season but we had to get here first.
“(This is) a group of competitors. Everytime we go out there we expect to compete. Today was no different.”
The Golden Eagles’ wild pitches came in the sixth inning. Bellefonte’s Zach Musser and Vance Przybys strung together back-to-back, one-out singles, and with Derek Fries at the plate, Somerset pitcher Michael VanLenten fired a low pitch which didn’t allow catcher Jeffrey Nicholson to make the stop. Musser and Przybys jumped on the opportunity and advanced to third and second, respectively. Two pitches later, VanLenten soared a pitch over Nicholson’s head and Musser rushed to home with no throw for the winning score.
“You get late in the game,” Rellinger explained, “guys get tired and anything can happen. We got guys on base and we tried to read the ball in the dirt or over the catchers head and we just take it any way we can.”
Bellefonte’s Dominic Masullo got the start on the mound and he battled all game long with VanLenten. Masullo picked up the complete game win, giving up just one hit while striking out eight. He also allowed six free base runners — three of which he hit. However, Masullo and his defenes were able to strand seven runners on base.
“That’s why we got him out there,” Rellinger said of his starter. “He can bring it and we are excited to have him. He had really good control. You got to have it in big games and he kept his position.”
Masullo added: “That one hit is on the stat sheet, but you know what isn’t on the stat sheet is the ground balls that they (his defense) made plays on. We had a couple errors but that happens whenever your young like us. Guys behind me made plays and thats what we need to happen.”
Bellefonte (13-7) was able to jump on VanLenten early with a run in the first inning.
Trent Fortney had a bloop single to right field and then courtesy runner Nick Jabco stole second. Following a strikeout, Logan Mathieu lined a single up the middle of the infield to drive in Jabco giving the Red Raiders an early 1-0 lead. It was a lead that Masullo embraced with open arms.
“Any pitcher would agree they love having that early run a little insurance for you,” he said. “I know I do and anytime you can get a run like is great.”
The Red Raiders made VanLenten earn his outs by using long, drawn-out at bats, as he threw 97 pitches in the game. After giving up that first run, VanLenten settled in and worked out of bases loaded jams several times.
As VanLenten was quieting Bellefonte’s bats, Somerset’s (11-8) offense came alive in the third inning to tie the game.
The Eagles’ Seth Rose drew a walk following a groundout from the leadoff hitter. Rose stole second during Raven Beeman’s at bat and moved to third when Beeman grounded into a fielder’s choice. VanLenten drew another walk and stole second to put runners at second and third. Bryce Mostoller hit a grounder to second base that was misplayed and Rose scored.
“A great pitching battle today,” Eagles coach Steve Costea said. “We just weren’t disciplined enough at the plate; swinging at balls outside the zone. You cant do that in a real tight ballgame like this. He (Masullo) threw a lot of pitches and threw them well. We just did not have a good day at the plate and it showed.”