The State College baseball team has been able to rely on its pitching and defense this season.
But the Little Lions’ offensive production has been a problem.
Fixing that issue became the primary focus at practices after the team managed just one hit in a loss to Mifflin County earlier this week. The Little Lions took a lot of batting practice, worked on situational hitting and prepared to see their share of pitches on the corners against Bellefonte.
It paid off Saturday.
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State College pounded out 13 hits and rolled to a 7-3 win over the Red Raiders.
“These kids are competitors and they knew they weren’t handling their side of things,” Little Lions coach Troy Allen said. “And they’ve done a tremendous job since we’ve got that corrected.”
The pitching staff got the job done again as David Shoemaker, Gavin Schaefer-Hood and Christian Friberg combined to limit Bellefonte (4-8) to three runs and eight hits in the win. The Little Lions (6-4) were flawless defensively, and they put together a four-run second inning to take the lead for good.
Chris Adams finished with two triples and Zach Ripka went 3 for 4 to lead State College offensively. Gehrig Schuster went 1 for 3 with a double and three RBIs and Nick Jabco finished with two hits and scored two runs for the Red Raiders.
Bellefonte coach Dan Fravel enjoyed his team’s opportunity to play the Little Lions.
Fravel is a math teacher at State College and spent nine years as an assistant coach for the Little Lions.
“I teach half of the kids and have helped coach them … so (it’s) very fun,” said Fravel, who last coached at State College in 2014. “I don’t know, I’ve worn all the colors around here. It’s a good little rivalry. You want to play all the local teams.”
Adams was looking forward to the matchup between the Centre County schools.
“We wanted to take it to ‘em early and often,” Adams said.
The Little Lions took control with five hits and four runs in the second inning.
Ripka led off with a single through the right side of the infield and scored on Greg Copenhaver’s double to left-center field, tying the game 1-1.
After Kenny Magnes drew a walk, Tyson Cooper sent a ground ball toward Bellefonte second baseman Garrett Reiter with two outs. The ball took a high hop over Reiter’s head and into right field for a single.
Dalton Barger followed with an infield single to load the bases, and Adams cleared them with a triple. Adams didn’t think he hit it that well, but it reached the center-field fence on one hop.
“The guys told me to hit the weight room,” Adams said. “It was a good day to hit. The ball was carrying out a little bit.”
Bellefonte nearly got out of the inning with the score tied.
But Cooper’s high-hop single and Barger’s single on a ground ball to first base kept the inning going.
“Our boys aren’t far off from being a really good team,” Fravel said. “And you’re one or two key plays, which may be a creative or very athletic play, from keeping some of those big innings from getting away from you.”
Instead, the Little Lions led 4-1 after Adams’ triple.
Cooper’s two-run double in the third pushed State College’s lead to five runs.
The Little Lions have won consecutive games since being one-hit by Mifflin County on Tuesday. They had eight players record hits Saturday.
“That really helps confidence-wise,” Adams said. “The whole lineup up and down hitting, you need that going forward, especially in the Mid Penn Conference. We need that and the last two games, we’ve been stringing them together when we needed ‘em.”