High School Sports

Bellefonte makes history with improbable postseason run

Bellefonte baseball coach Dan Fravel places a gold medal on pitcher Dom Masullo as the team celebrates its 2-0 win over Susquehanna Township in the PIAA Class AAA Championship on Friday, June 17, 2016 at Medlar Field.
Bellefonte baseball coach Dan Fravel places a gold medal on pitcher Dom Masullo as the team celebrates its 2-0 win over Susquehanna Township in the PIAA Class AAA Championship on Friday, June 17, 2016 at Medlar Field. adrey@centredaily.com

Pat Masullo understands the tradition of the Bellefonte baseball program.

The Red Raiders assistant coach was part of the school’s first team to go to the state tournament in 1977. He started as an assistant coach in 1984 and helped the program through 2007 before returning this season.

Bellefonte put together successful seasons over the years — runs to the state semifinals in 1987 and 2009, among them. The Red Raiders had great players go through the program too, including former major league pitcher Eric Milton.

But the Red Raiders never reached the state championship.

“This is one thing that’s eluded us,” Masullo said.

Bellefonte won its first state championship in baseball Friday, beating Susquehanna Township 2-0 in the PIAA Class AAA title game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Masullo returned to coaching at Bellefonte after getting a call from new coach Dan Fravel.

“I was really seriously planning on putting my dad hat on and just sitting in the bleachers and watching the game,” said Masullo, whose son, Dom, threw a complete game Friday. “But when Dan came and I knew he was new to our program and he’d need some help and I knew if we had somebody who could lead us and really get us on the right track and put all the pieces of the puzzle in the right place, I could help doing certain things.”

After giving his players their gold medals and posing with the team with the championship trophy, Fravel thought back to the start of the season.

Bellefonte once owned a 1-7 record.

“Any given day they could have folded it in,” Fravel said. “I’m not going to fold it in.”

His players didn’t quit, either.

The Red Raiders worked through chemistry issues and found a winning formula.

The pitchers threw strikes. The defense made the plays. The hitters executed to manufacture runs.

It all led to the program’s first state championship, making the early struggles a footnote, bringing the community together and building a bond between the players.

“We’re going to be friends for life,” Bellefonte’s Tyler Kreger said.

Memorable moment

In an unforgettable postseason run for Bellefonte, Storm Smith’s walk-off double in the PIAA semifinals was perhaps the most memorable moment.

Hamburg owned a 4-3 lead with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Bellefonte had runners on first and second.

Smith fouled off three two-strike pitches during a nine-pitch at-bat and hammered a line drive down the left field line for a two-run double to clinch a 5-4 win.

The ensuing scene at Greene Township Park was one of pure joy.

Nick Jabco tackled Smith behind second base to start the celebration.

The Red Raiders were still alive and headed to the state championship game.

Special bond

Bellefonte’s Dom Masullo fought back his emotions as he talked about his father Friday.

“He just always takes time out of his day to help me and everybody else,” Masullo said. “He’s just a great guy and that’s all I can say.”

Two days before Father’s Day, Dom Masullo pitched a complete game in the Red Raiders’ 2-0 win over Susquehanna Township in the championship game.

His father, Pat, was a catcher during his playing days and worked his son and catcher Greg Watson throughout the season, teaching them how to control the pace of the game and how to handle shifts in momentum.

“He’s helped me along the way tremendously,” Watson said.

Sibling state champs

Storm Smith watched the Bellefonte softball team make its run to the PIAA Class AAA championship in 2010.

His sister, Brittany, was an all-state second baseman for the Lady Red Raiders.

“She was great and Bellefonte softball was great and it was always something that I dreamed of because I’ve been there,” Smith said. “I was part of that too, being a fan and being her brother.”

Smith now has his own gold medal after helping the Bellefonte baseball team to the state championship Friday.

The siblings both had walk-off hits during their team’s state runs.

Smith’s walk-off double with two outs in the seventh inning against Hamburg in the semifinals sent the Red Raiders to the championship game. His sister had a walk-off triple to lift the Lady Red Raiders past Yough in the state quarterfinals in 2010.

Brittany was at Friday’s game to support her brother.

“She wanted me to rub her medal for good luck,” Smith said. “I ended up not doing it. I didn’t want to jinx anything.”

Ryne Gery: 814-231-4679, @rgery