The 2015 baseball season opened with high expectations as several players expressed an excitement for just being part of this team, as well as, the potential for winning. The Red Raiders returned several players who had gained valuable experience in 2014. The team consisted of 8 seniors including Taylor Butts (1B), Trent Fortney (Catcher), Derek Fries (OF), Jonny Glunt (OF), Adam Kuhn (3B), Zach Musser (2B), Vance Przybys (OF), and Devin Walk (P).
The remaining Red Raider roster consisted of returning juniors Mark Armstrong (OF), Darren Heeman (SS), Dominic Masullo (P/1B), as well as, returning sophomores Tyler Kreger (SS) and Logan Mathieu (P/1B). New to the varsity squad were juniors Logan Harter (3B), Nick Jabco (P/OF), Reese Lucas (Catcher), Kyler Mellott (P/OF), Gehrig Schuster (C/3B), Storm Smith (2B), Jeremy Warefield (P), and sophomores Dane Alterio (P/OF) and Tanner Helms (OF).
“Coach, I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team,” was a phrase that was either spoken directly by several players or was displayed by the way they carried themselves daily around each other. Every player knew they had a certain set of skills to help the team and recognized that the opportunities would be presented in many ways. One of those ways that constantly occurred, because it is something that anyone in sports expects, is competition. Creating an internal competitive team environment was a goal of the coaching staff’s and was consistently embedded in our practices early and often. From live battles with pitchers and hitters in the cage or outside at practice, to stations where pairs or individuals made the drills count as games, to indoor team defense where we would count consecutively fielded ground balls and accurate throws (over 100 in the full distance box drill!). The guys took their natural competitive instincts and meshed it with their understanding that this was a team and they all would have to earn their playing time by showing they could execute in competitive situations.
As the season began we had many positions that could have been filled with a variety of players. As the internal competitions took place at each position, we recognized that we had very good depth and that several players were capable of giving us a good chance to win each day. The players knew the ultimate goals were to develop their skills each day, prove they could execute, and support each other no matter whose number was called. With those in mind, our cohesion and chemistry as ONE TEAM developed and strengthened, propelling us to be very competitive placing 3rd (9-5) in the Mountain League and winning the District VI, AAA championship.
Mountain League All-Stars:
The Red Raiders jumped out to an early lead on PhilipsburgOsceola and captured a 10-0 victory.
Eight runs in the first three innings allowed us to put the game away early. An opposite field, solo home run by Logan Mathieu on his first swing of the season got us started with authority. An RBI double by Dominic Masullo followed knocking in Trent Fortney after his single. After a two-run error scoring Zach Musser (single) and Masullo, a two-run single by Tanner Helms scored Darren Heeman (HBP) and Vance Przybys (E).
Masullo kept Philipsburg-Osceola off the scoreboard for all five innings he was on the bump. He showed great early-season command and power as he pitched a 2 hit shutout with eight strikeouts.
In the third, a two-run single by Darren Heeman, plated Trent Fortney (BB) and Zach Musser (single). In the 5th, Mathieu knocked in two more with a single scoring Heeman (BB) and Przybys (single).
Vs. Bellwood-Antis (#2 AA State Ranking)
The Red Raiders jumped out to an early lead on Bellwood-Antis and captured a 10-0 victory. Nine runs in the first three innings allowed us to jump out in front and never look back. After walks issued to the first 5 batters (Tyler Kreger, Trent Fortney, Taylor Butts, Dominic Masullo, and Gehrig Schuster), Storm Smith finally got something to hit and ripped an RBI single. A walk by Nick Jabco, a two-run single by Vance Przybys, and then a two-run single by Masullo capped off the inning as we batted around. After multiple innings of no productivity offensively, Smith came through for us again as he scalded an RBI double to left center.
Masullo pitched lights out as Bellwood-Antis managed just one hit in his second straight shutout. He walked four and struck out eight during his five innings of work.
Vs. Bald Eagle
Logan Mathieu powered the Red Raiders at the plate and on the hill willing us to a 3-1 victory over Bald Eagle Area. Mathieu went 2-3 and drove in one. He singled in the fourth inning and doubled in the seventh inning. He also dominated on the mound with an eight-strikeout performance allowing no earned runs, five hits and four walks over six innings.
In top of the 6th inning, free passes by Taylor Butts, Logan Mathieu, Gehrig Schuster and Zach Musser (RBI), finally tied the game 1-1. In the top of the 7th after Tanner Helms singled, Butts came to the plate with one out and singled, scoring Helms. BEA proceeded to lead off the bottom of the 7th with a single off Mathieu. Nick Jabco was called upon for his first pitching action of the season in relief against a rival in a crucial situation. After a flare single to center, Jabco put the clamps down inducing two weak ground balls and a strikeout to end the game with a save.
Trent Fortney had two extra base hits, sparking the Red Raiders to a 5-0 victory in seven innings over Huntingdon. He tripled in the third inning and doubled in the seventh inning.
Huntingdon couldn’t get anything going as long as Dominic Masullo was on the hill. Huntingdon managed just three hits and five walks while striking out five times during Masullo’s five innings of work.
In the 3rd inning, Fortney ripped a triple plating Darren Heeman and Derek Fries who both singled with 1 out. Fortney then stretched the lead in the top of the 7th by doubling in Fries who singled and stole second base. Taylor Butts followed with a single and Logan Mathieu added another insurance run by hitting Fortney in with a sacrifice fly (QAB).
Nick Jabco entered in the 7th in a non-save situation, but still proceeded to slam the door on any possible comeback by the Bearcats. Huntingdon started with a squibber that resulted in an error. After a quick strikeout, an infield single put two on base. However, Jabco induce two easy ground balls for the defense to cleanup and end the game.
Vs. Penns Valley
After losing a close contest in the first meeting at Penns Valley where Jeremy Warefield pitched a gem allowing 2 runs (1 earned) over six innings, the Red Raiders took to the field for round two. Jonny Glunt got it started in the first inning with a lead off single. After stealing second base, he was brought home on double by Logan Mathieu.
In the second inning with one out, Adam Kuhn singled while Storm Smith followed with a double. Derek Fries walked to load the bases and the Raiders scored those three base runners on free passes by Glunt, Trent Fortney (HBP), and Mathieu. Later in the fourth inning with one out, Glunt singled, stole second base and was knocked in on a double by Taylor Butts. That gave us the 5-0 lead going into the sixth inning.
Dominic Masullo kept contact to a minimum, striking out nine Penns Valley Area batters allowing no earned runs on two hits and 10 walks over 5 2/3 innings. The Rams did score unearned runs in the sixth inning. After a leadoff walk, a fly out, an error, and a strikeout, they had two runners on with two outs. After issuing two more walks scoring one run, the Rams hit a flare double down the left-field line to make the score 5-4. Nick Jabco was summoned from the bullpen and proceeded to quickly end the come back with a strikeout.
In the top of the seventh the Rams again put the pressure on us by getting a couple hits. Jabco held them in check with the bases loaded by getting the next two batters out via strikeout and inducing a weak ground ball back to him where he calmly threw to first base for the final out.
The Red Raiders beat Philipsburg-Osceola 6-0 in seven innings. Jeremy Warefield got it done on the rubber on the way to a win. He tossed seven innings of shutout ball never allowing a runner past second base. Warefield struck out two, walked one and spread out seven hits.
The scoring started in the 2nd inning as Adam Kuhn led of with a walk. Storm Smith followed with a single to right field putting runners at 1st and 2nd. An infield error loaded the bases for Mark Armstrong who quietly did his job by hitting a soft ground ball to the right side scoring Kuhn from 3rd. It was a 4-3 putout in the scorebook, but a Quality At-Bat (QAB) in our book! After a balk pushed Smith home, Vance Przybys then stepped up with an RBI single scoring Gehrig Schuster.
In the 5th inning, Tyler Kreger led off with a single and stole 2nd base. After an infield error put runners on 1st and 3rd, Kuhn roped a double to right-centerfield scoring Kreger and putting Taylor Butts at 3rd base. Smith then hit a groundball to third, who was playing back, which allowed Butts to scamper home (QAB). Schuster then capped off the inning with a sacrifice fly (QAB) scoring Kuhn.
Vs. Tyrone (doubleheader)
In the 1st game of the doubleheader, the Red Raiders exploded for 20 runs prevailing by a 20-5 final score. In the top of the first, Trent Fortney started it off with a single and stole 2nd base. A single by Taylor Butts put us at 1st and 3rd. Logan Mathieu followed with a double scoring Fortney.
After Tyrone answered with two runs of their own, we grabbed the lead back with a strong second inning. A two-run single by Fortney plated Vance Przybys (single) and Mark Armstrong (single). Derek Fries (FC) scored on a single by Butts who then scored on a fielder’s choice by Mathieu (QAB).
In the 3rd inning, after Zach Musser reached by error and Mark Armstrong singled, Darren Heeman hit an infield single, scoring Musser. After a Fortney single, Butts singled scoring Armstrong and Heeman. Next, Mathieu ripped his second double of the game scoring Fortney to take a 9-2 lead. That was enough for Devin Walk as he got the win allowing five runs, striking out two, walking one and with five hits.
Nick Jabco came on in 2 innings of relief for Walk and proceeded to pound the strike zone throwing 29 pitches, 20 of which were strikes. In the 4th, Musser and Armstrong got things started the hard way by “taking one for the team.” After an error and an FC to second base scored Musser (Derek Fries-QAB), Fortney stepped up again with his whoopin’ stick and laced a triple down the left field line scoring two setting the tone for a demolition. Butts followed with an RBI double and Mathieu jacked his second homerun of the season by launching a towering shot to right-centerfield with authority.
In the 5th inning and what proved to be the last by mercy rule, 5 straight singles by Armstrong (leadoff), Heeman, Jeremy Warefield, Reese Lucas and Dominic Masullo got things going. Mathieu (FC and QAB) scored one. After that, Adam Kuhn walked which was followed with RBI singles by Musser and Vance Przybys.
In game two, the Red Raiders won 4-2 in a battle that featured Dane Alterio in his first varsity outing. Alterio was in excellent control through 3 innings pitching a shutout. In the 4th, after an easy ground ball out, he gave up 3 straight walks and Tyrone scored on a FC at second base. Then he induce another easy ground ball to get out of the inning with minimal damage. It was a great example of staying poised and executing in a tense moment as the score was now 1-0, Tyrone.
We answered back in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game. Tyler Kreger led off with a single and stole second base with one out. After advancing to third-base on a catcher’s error, Kreger scored on an error by the shortstop on an infield ground ball.
Dominic Masullo entered the game in the fifth and quickly got into a jam as Tyrone led off with a single, HBP, and another single. However, a easy ground ball to Storm Smith at 2nd base allowed for him to gather and throw home for a force out. Catcher Gehrig Schuster made the save of the day scooping the long throw out of the dirt. Masullo settled right in after that striking out the next two with the bases still loaded to get out of the jam.
In the bottom of the fifth after one out was recorded, Taylor Butts walked followed by an Adam Kuhn single. Pinch runner Darren Heeman entered for Butts as the potential go-ahead run. Kreger then walked to load the bases for Smith. A wild pitch gave Heeman a chance to score and he did easily with his speed. Smith promptly ripped a double scoring Kuhn to take a 4-1 lead. Tyrone would score 1 more in the top of the 6th, but that fire was put out to end the inning and the game due to darkness without a 7th inning.
Vs. Clearfield (Senior Day)
On the day of recognition for the seniors nearing the end of their high school careers, the Red Raiders and the Bison passed the lead back and forth five times. In the end it was our boys that were conquerors in a 10-5 win.
Devin Walk recorded the win as he went 6 1/3 innings striking out two, walking two and allowing four hits to a strong Clearfield team that was in second place in the league. Walk had them way out in front and off balance as they stayed aggressive at the plate.
We jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third started by a Derek Fries single who then stole 2nd base. After an out, Jonny Glunt singled to leftfield putting us a 1st and 3rd. An infield error on a ground ball scored Fries and Glunt scored on a groundout (QAB) by Taylor Butts.
Entering the 6th inning, Walk had faced 2 more batters than the minimum as we maintained a 2-0 lead. However, the Bison made the most out of the inning scoring 3 runs on a single, 2 HBP’s and 2 BB’s. Walk managed to stay composed and limit the damage keeping us in it as Clearfield took a 3-2 into the bottom of the 6th.
Like a good team does, we promptly answered back. But instead of a run to tie or two to take the lead, we put up a REALLY crooked number 8 off of their #2 starter. With 7 straight hits started by Adam Kuhn and followed by Zach Musser, Vance Przybys, Derek Fries, Darren Heeman, and Jonny Glunt, the Red Raiders produced 3 runs. A Trent Fortney double cleared the bases scoring 3 and Kuhn came back around to rip a double scoring Fortney. Musser finished off the rally with a sac fly (QAB) driving in our 10th run.
Walk put everything he had into the game and was lined up for a complete game as he came out for the 7th. However, fatigue set in and Clearfield loaded the bases forcing him out of the game. Nick Jabco entered the game and although he gave up a single to the first batter scoring 2 runs, he shut the door by getting the final two outs easily without any further damage. Our senior day victory evened the season series with Clearfield at 1-1.
Vs. Bald Eagle
The Bellefonte Red Raiders and BEA exchanged the lead five times, but we ended up on top with a 6-5 win in seven innings. Kyler Mellott pitched 5 & ⅔ only allowing 3 earned runs.
After stranding two BEA runners in the top of the first, our leadoff man, Tanner Helms, reached base on an error to start the bottom half. However, two straight strikeouts followed bringing Logan Mathieu to the plate to keep it going. Helms got the steal sign on the first pitch and was successful. Mathieu was selective early in the at bat and then got the one he wanted on a 1-1 count ripping a double to the gap scoring Helms.
BEA evened the score in the 2nd with an unearned run of their own, but we answered back in a big way scoring 4 runs in our next atbat. With one out, Nick Jabco saw an opening for a drag bunt and executed it perfectly. Darren Heeman followed with a sharp groundball to second, but the speed of Jabco caused the throw at 2nd base to be hurried resulting in an error. Helms stepped back into the box with his speed and ability to control the bat when drag bunting, which gave us a chance to put some pressure on the defense. Tanner perfectly executed the play and loaded the bases. Trent Fortney broke the tie with a single scoring Jabco, followed by a Taylor Butts HBP scoring Heeman. Mathieu then singled in Helms and an Adam Kuhn fielder’s choice (QAB) scored Fortney to make it a 5-1 game.
BEA was desperate to get back into the game and in the 4th inning promptly led off with two straight hits. A SAC bunt and single followed scoring 2 runs to make it a 5-3 game. Another SAC bunt and flyout ended the threat. In the 6th inning, Mellott got two quick outs, but a single and BB chased him from the game. Nick Jabco entered and immediately hit a batter to load the bases and threw a wild pitch to score a run making it 5-4. Jabco composed himself and got out of the inning. In the 7th, a leadoff walk proved to be costly as a few singles later scored the tying run for BEA. Jabco again got out of the inning with a tie game, but his teammates were going to have to come through.
Although we had surrendered a 4 run lead and had been shutout since the 2nd inning, the boys were excited and motivated to answer back yet again. Mathieu wasted no time singling to put the winning run on base. He was lifted for the speedy Zach Musser. Kuhn then punched a double down the rightfield line, but Musser was forced to stop at third base. An intentional walk put Jonny Glunt on and loaded the bases. With nobody out and a string of contact hitters coming up, we were confident in our chances to pull out the win. Storm Smith stepped to the plate and took a good approach forcing the starting pitcher to throw a strike. Smith worked a 1-1 count and then got one he liked sending it back up the middle for a walk-off single. It was a great at-bat not just because of the outcome, but because of his approach of staying patient and not trying to do too much against a very good pitcher.
District VI Playoffs vs. Huntingdon
After the BEA walk-off win, we had a couple of tough games against Central Mountain and Dubois which both ended in losses. However, we learned a bit more about ourselves and carried some momentum into a week of practice and inter-squad scrimmages in preparation of a third showdown with Huntingdon. As the #1 seed we had a certain confidence in our abilities, but with the difference in the seeding being only percentage points, we knew that the only real difference between the teams was going to be execution.
It was a cool and misty mid-May day in Bellefonte for our first round matchup. After splitting the season series, everyone knew the rubber match was going to be highly intense. The Bearcats were starting their pitcher who shut us out early in the season and we were starting Dominic Masullo who shut them out in the second meeting.
In the first inning, although the visitors loaded the bases on a hit, a walk, and a HBP with two outs, Masullo ended the threat with his second strikeout of the inning. We came into the dugout excited and that energy transferred right to our offense as we scored 3 runs. With 1 out, 4 straight hits by Trent Fortney, Taylor Butts, Logan Mathieu (RBI), and Darren Heeman (RBI) got the crowd excited. A groundball to shortstop by Zach Musser resulted in an error, which pushed Mathieu across the plate for the 3rd run.
After a leadoff triple by Huntingdon in the top of the 2nd inning, Masullo induced 3 quick outs leaving the Bearcats frustrated and our Red Raiders on a mission to do some more damage. Tanner Helms led-off with an infield single and Fortney followed with a SAC Bunt attempt that resulted in a throwing error by the catcher allowing runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd. Butts followed with a SAC Fly (QAB) and Mathieu hit a ground ball to the right side (QAB) scoring our 4th and 5th runs, respectively.
In the 3rd inning, Masullo struck out the first two batters, but then walked the next three to load the bases. An error allowed two of those runs to score unearned making the score 5-2. It wasn’t until the 5th inning that their offense trumped our defense as Huntingdon scored 2 more. A hit and a walk followed by a two-out single to left scored both making it a 1 run game at 5-4.
We finally made some more noise in the bottom of the 6th as Derek Fries had a one-out walk and Fortney walked with 2 outs. Butts then rifled a double scoring Fries. Mathieu walked to load the bases and Adam Kuhn followed suit to make the score 7-4 going into the 7th.
Masullo entered the 7th to try to close it out, but a leadoff walk and an elevated pitch count forced a change. Nick Jabco had been in this position before and proceeded to induce two outs, one by ground out to second base for a putout at first, and the other by strikeout. Then, madness ensued. The #9 hitter battled a two-strike count for 8 pitches before walking and then 3 straight seeing-eye singles scored 3 runs tying the game and stunning the crowd.
The Red Raider bottom half of the 7th didn’t net any runs so into extras we went as Jabco took the mound again. After an easy out at shortstop, a HBP put a man on base. Jabco induced another easy flare out to third base keeping the runner at first. However, with two outs, two straight hits put the pressure on us. On the second hit, Huntingdon sent the runner home from second, but Derek Fries came up firing from left field and put a one-hopper right on catcher Trent Fortney who put the tag down and ended the inning.
The bottom of the 8th saw the top of our lineup turn over as Tanner Helms led off. After taking two pitches off the plate, Helms settled in making sure he made the pitcher work. He had a 3-2 count, having not swung once, and stayed zoned in taking ball four. Trent Fortney was next and everyone knew what was coming. After squaring around, but taking the first two pitches for a 1-1 count, Fortney laid down the SAC bunt. However, a throwing error put runners on 1st and 2nd. A fly out followed and kept the runners in place for cleanup hitter Logan Mathieu. With a 2-1 count Mathieu roped one to the right field corner. Helms had to freeze on the secondary lead at 2nd to make sure the defender couldn’t snag it. The ball took one hop off the fence and that was all Helms needed with his speed. He scampered home and then proceeded to mob Mathieu with the rest of his teammates. Next stop…Altoona!
District VI AAA Championship Vs. Somerset
The championship game at Peoples Natural Gas Stadium, Altoona’s Double-A minor league ballpark, featured our Bellefonte Red Raiders for the first time since 2009 and the Somerset Eagles who were in their fifth straight championship having captured two straight and three of the last four.
Being in the first game of the day afforded us a chance to get on the field and take it all in well before it was “go time”. The guys were as loose and relaxed as ever even taking a team “selfie” out in centerfield with the infield as a backdrop. Our BP and defensive work in Bellwood on the way down probably simmered the nerves if any were present to begin with.
The sun was high in the sky by the start of the game. As the top seed, we were the home team and Dominic Masullo was well rested and ready to take the mound. After issuing a leadoff walk, Masullo settled in and struck out the next batter. A stolen base on the first pitch to the number three hitter preceded a 3-1 count HBP putting two guys on. However, he came right back and struck out the next batter followed by a comebacker and easy throw to first base for out number three.
Our research of Somerset’s possible starters gave us an indication of our foe that day. They featured a pitcher that had similarities to our very own, a hard thrower, but a bit wild based on stats we obtained. Sometimes that can be effective, but when runners were on, we certainly would have to look to move up a base here and there. With one out, Trent Fortney singled to right field on a fly ball that dropped in front of the outfielders who were playing deep in the expansive park. After the second out, Fortney’s courtesy runner, Nick Jabco stole on the first pitch of Logan Mathieu’s at bat. Mathieu did not hesitate to drill the ball to centerfield for a single scoring Jabco.
In the third inning, Somerset found a way to manufacture a run with two outs. After two walks and a ground out in between put runners at second and third, a ground ball up the middle was knocked down by second baseman Zach Musser and that effort couldn’t stop the run from scoring. However, the runner on second base also tried to advance home but Musser came up firing to Fortney and the tag was made ending the inning.
Although the Red Raiders threatened in the third and fifth innings producing no runs, Masullo allowed only two runners in the 4th, 5th and 6th keeping the Eagles easily in check with quick innings bringing our offense back into the dugout ready to strike in the sixth inning. With one out, Musser and Vance Przybys had back to back singles putting us in scoring position. A wild pitch allowed the runners to move up to second and third. Three pitches into the next at-bat came another wild pitch to the backstop allowing Musser to race home for the goahead run. All we had to do was get three outs to win.
Masullo, still feeling fresh after 104 pitches with the last three innings ending very quickly, went back out for the seventh. After an easy pop out to third baseman, Adam Kuhn, Masullo struck out the next batter. Next, a ground ball to the right side had Musser charging hard. Zach’s ability to stay low with the ball, a testament to his athleticism and wrestling background, allowed him to scoop the ball, put the clamps down on it and quickly toss it to first baseman Taylor Butts for the final out and the championship. The team rushed the field and the celebration was on!
The District VI championship was a great accomplishment for a great group of kids. Their willingness to keep working, stay positive and be team oriented really helped us battle through the ups and downs of the season. Our depth at many positions provided opportunities for many players to be challenged and develop a sense of ownership for their contributions daily at practices and in games. We were concentrating on the current season, but recognized the importance of growth for the next season too. Although we ran into a gritty West Allegheny squad in the first round of the PIAA state playoffs ending our season, the boys had a lot to be proud of and the coaches made it clear that so many others were very proud of them for their accomplishments up to that point and for those they were going to achieve in the future.