Want to be happy for a lifetime, win a state title
Three police vehicles and two firetrucks led the Bellefonte baseball team’s procession down East Bishop Street.
The Red Raiders players leaned out the windows of the yellow school bus decorated with signs that read: Congrats. State Champs. Roll on Raiders. Ten more fire, police and medical vehicles from Bellefonte, Pleasant Gap and Spring Township immediately followed the team bus.
Sirens sounded. Horns blared. People applauded.
Bellefonte beat Susquehanna Township 2-0 in the PIAA Class AAA championship game Friday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, capturing the first state championship in baseball in school history.
“I’m on top of the world,” Bellefonte’s Tyler Kreger said.
Dom Masullo pitched a complete game, striking out five and allowing five hits to lead the Red Raiders to the victory.
Kreger finished 1 for 4 with an RBI, and Garrett Reiter finished 1 for 3 and scored a run to pace Bellefonte offensively.
The Red Raiders (16-11) completed their run to the state title against the Indians (19-9) in a stadium packed with supporters.
The Bellefonte fans rose to their feet when their team struck first in the third inning.
Susquehanna Township starting pitcher Danny Warshawsky retired the first eight batters he faced before Red Raiders catcher Greg Watson drew a walk.
After courtesy runner Colton Burd stole second base, Kreger had a chance to get the Red Raiders on the board with two outs.
“It’s a team ballgame,” Bellefonte coach Dan Fravel said. “You just set your next buddy up to be the hero. Your job is just to get on base, let the next guy knock you in and really the hero or the key hits are going to come from anywhere in the lineup and it’s been all nine, 10, 12 of ’em that have been in there that have contributed to this offensively.”
Kreger came through, lining a 2-1 pitch over the shortstop to score Burd.
Bellefonte led 1-0.
In the dugout, Bellefonte’s Storm Smith pointed out to Kreger, then pointed to his right arm.
Smith picked up the “ice in my veins” signal from Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell and started to do it after getting hits during the season. He kept it going through a postseason defined by clutch hits.
Smith drove in the game-winning runs in one-run wins in the first round and semifinals of the state playoffs. Kreger delivered the game-winning hit in a 1-0 win in the state quarterfinals before his big hit Friday.
He used Smith’s trademark celebration after his single.
“He was pointing at me trying to get me to do it so I had to give it to him,” Kreger said.
Along with the clutch hitting, spectacular defense and dominant pitching carried the Red Raiders through the PIAA tournament.
In the bottom of the third, Masullo got some help from his teammates.
Bellefonte shortstop Dylan Deitrich ranged up the middle to take care of a ground ball by Joel Watts for the first out. Deitrich then backhanded a hard-hit ball in the hole and made the long throw to first.
It wasn’t in time to get Eli Weikert, but he tripped and first baseman Logan Mathieu quickly put the tag on him for the out.
After Masullo ended the inning with a strikeout, Masullo grabbed Deitrich and shook him in excitement as they made their way to the dugout.
“One of the best defenses I’ve seen in high school out here right now,” Fravel said of his team.
Bellefonte added to its lead in the fifth.
Reiter led off with a bunt single and advanced to second on a balk by Susquehanna Township relief pitcher Austin Dressler.
Reiter then scored on an Indians error on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Deitrich.
“It was a team effort to get here without a doubt,” Watson said. “We’ve really learned how to play fundamental small ball team working baseball, laying down bunts moving runners around, getting runners into scoring position and driving ‘em in.”
With a 2-0 lead, Masullo escaped one-out, bases-loaded jams in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the seventh, with runners on first and second, he induced a groundout to second base for the final out to clinch the state title.
“It’ll probably hit me tomorrow once I wake up and I just think about everything and just how far we’ve come,” Masullo said. “It’s just incredible.”
The Red Raiders earned state playoff wins in Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock and Scotland before making the approximately 12-mile drive to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to play in the championship game.
They left for Bellefonte with more than 30 cars trailing them out of the stadium parking lot.
At about 6 p.m., they arrived at the high school, marking the end of a historic season.
Said Kreger: “It was just one heck of a run that I’ll never forget.”