Seven games into the season, Philipsburg-Osceola coach Doug Sankey has yet to use a relief pitcher.
Gage Coudriet, Josh Earnest and Isaac Knepp have started and finished each outing, throwing strikes and keeping their pitch counts down.
It was Knepp’s turn to take the ball Thursday.
He pitched a complete game to help the Mounties stay unbeaten with a 3-1 win over Bellefonte. It was another solid effort on the mound as Knepp and the rest of the staff have limited opponents to five runs in seven games. Knepp held the Red Raiders scoreless for the first five innings Thursday before allowing a run, ending Philipsburg-Osceola’s run of four straight shutout wins.
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“It’s just incredible,” Sankey said of his pitching staff. “I can’t even explain how we’ve been doing it. Never would I have imagined that.”
The Mounties (7-0) scored three runs in the first four innings to provide enough support for Knepp, while Bellefonte couldn’t break through offensively.
Tyler Kreger, Logan Mathieu and Storm Smith each finished with two hits for the Red Raiders, who fell to 1-7 on the season.
“If something’s easy, everybody would be doing it and varsity baseball’s not supposed to be easy,” Bellefonte coach Dan Fravel said. “So kind of the grind to keep doing the same things and have belief in it is really a challenge and that’s kind of where we’re at.”
Philipsburg-Osceola has enjoyed a perfect start.
The Mounties took control with a run in the first inning.
Earnest led off with an infield single, beating Bellefonte starting pitcher Jeremy Warefield to the bag after hitting a ground ball to first base.
Earnest took second on a passed ball and advanced to third on a groundout. He then scored on an infield single by Knepp.
The Mounties added to the lead in the third inning, sparked by back-to-back walks to Derek Shaw and Logan Williamson. After Caleb Belinda drew a one-out walk to load the bases, Shaw scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
“We battled,” Shaw said. “That’s our way of doing things. We worked hard to push runs across no matter what we got to do.”
Earnest, Shaw and Williamson, the top three hitters in the lineup, have now reached base in every game this year.
But after Earnest scored on an error in the fourth inning, Bellefonte’s Adam Armstrong shut down the Mounties in the final three innings.
Armstrong was perfect, striking out the first six batters he faced and retiring nine straight to finish the game. Armstrong finished his stellar relief outing with his seventh strikeout.
“His job was just to throw strikes and change the pace of the game, and that’s what he did,” Fravel said. “He worked real quick.”
Knepp worked at a more methodical pace in his complete-game effort.
He allowed Bellefonte’s lone run in the bottom of the sixth after giving up a leadoff double to Tanner Helms. Dylan Deitrich then singled with one out to score Helms and pull Bellefonte within two runs.
Knepp scattered nine hits, struck out three and walked one.
“I felt like he didn’t have his best stuff today,” Sankey said. “But I told him, you really grinded it out, showed a lot of grit, just didn’t give in.”
And the Mounties made the routine plays behind him.
“It’s solid,” Knepp said. “Any ball, they’re able to get in front of it.”