A SOLID RUN: Bellefonte ends stellar 2018 season in state tournament to Meadville
DUBOIS — Bellefonte High School’s quest for a state title ended with a 4-3 loss to Meadville, but the defeat doesn’t erase the Raiders’ dominant season.
First-year head coach Jon Clark led Bellefonte to a 16-7 record and a district crown. They finished the year just three wins shy of their preseason goal, but continued the program’s winning history.
“This was a great season,” Bellefonte coach Jon Clark said. “[Assistant coach] Rick Hall and I are both the new guys on the block, and you could definitely see in the early part of the season some apprehension with us trying to figure out what we were all about and how we would approach things”
“But the guys kept battling and kept doing the things we wanted day-in and day-out, and really made [Coach Hall and I] apart of the team,” Clark added. “At the end, they were doing all the things we asked of them and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Bellefonte’s starting pitcher Ashton Wetzler was terrific on the mound. He surrendered just two runs and threw a game-high four strikeouts. On his 101st and final pitch, he forced a pop out to escape a fifth inning bases-loaded jam.
“He’s a warrior,” Clark said of Wetzler. “He goes in there and gives it everything he has. He doesn’t leave anything on the table.”
Wetzler’s strong start helped set the tone for the game. He ended both the first two innings with a strikeout and entered the fourth with a no-hitter.
“He was fantastic,” Clark said of Wetzler. “He gave us what we wanted in the game, we just didn’t get enough runs on the board to give him the win.”
Bellefonte’s bats didn’t heat up until the fourth. They entered the inning with just two hits, but managed to crack four consecutive hits in the outing to build a 2-0 lead.
After leadoff hitter Eric Peggs recorded a walk, CJ Lauck and Colton Burd both executed bunts back-to-back to load the bases. Daniel Catchmark followed Burd with an RBI-single for the first score of the game, putting Bellefonte up 1-0. Nick Capparelle then ripped an RBI-single to widen the Raiders’ lead, 2-0.
Meadville responded in the fifth. Nick Frantz led the inning off with a single before Andrew Mook reached base on a Bellefonte error. Wyett Smith then cracked a two-run double to even the game.
Meadville captured the lead in the sixth after a mental lapse by Bellefonte’s defense. Meadville’s Wyett Smith drew a walk, but base runner Nick Frantz was far off third base, a mistake catcher Colton Burd quickly noticed. Burd chased Frantz into a rundown, but after third baseman CJ Lauck received the ball, he was forced to delay his throw back to home as the plate was unoccupied and Frantz was sprinting in. Frantz slid in to beat the tag at home to give Meadville its first lead of the game, 3-2.
“We just didn’t execute the rundown the proper way,” Clark explained. “When you get to games like this, and you’re at this point of the season, I always say to the kids ‘you have to do the routine stuff.’ The rundown is something they’ve done since little league, and maybe even sooner. It’s something we addressed earlier in the season but shouldn’t have to address again.”
The miscue cost Bellefonte the lead, but not the game. Over a seven-inning frame, Clark feels it’s dishonest to point fingers at a single play.
“It’s not one play that ever causes it,” Clark explained. “You could go back and look at a 100 different things in a course of a game that ends like that, and say ‘well if this went this way or that went that way [we could’ve won].’ When you do that, you drive yourself crazy.”
Bellefonte managed to tie the game in the seventh. Cade Fortney and CJ Funk recorded back-to-back singles, before Bobby Marsh was intentionally walked to set up CJ Lauck with a chance to put Bellefonte ahead. Lauck drew an RBI-bases loaded walk to even the game at three runs apiece.
“I felt really good with Lauck in there,” Clark said. “He’s been real disciplined and real hot as of late for us. It’s just about being in there and being smart with your approach, and he was.”
Meadville loaded the bases in the seventh before Nick Frantz’ walkoff single gifted the Bulldogs the victory, 4-3.
“It’s unfortunate that it ends that way, but only one team finishes with a smile on their face in 4A,” Clark said. “Unfortunately it’s not us this year.”
Looking ahead for Bellefonte they both retain and lose top talent. Now graduated are significant athletes like Dylan Deitrich and Cade Fortney, the team’s two leadoff hitters, and ace hurler Adam Armstrong.
Ashton Wetzler is expected to fill Armstrong’s shoes. Wetzler had a 6-2 record this year.
“I’ve always said to our guys this year that we don’t have a No. 1 and No. 2 pitcher, because I believe we have a 1A and 1B, and that’s been Adam and Ashton all year,” Clark said. “They both pitched in big spots for us.”
Also returning are sophomore CJ Funk and freshman Bobby Marsh, who combined for an absurd 16 home runs this year.
Despite the solid talent from the underclassmen, Clark knows the five seniors’ presence will be missed.
“We have a nice mix of guys coming up through, but we relied on our seniors too,” Clark said. “They provided leadership, which you just can’t recreate or manufacture in the gym.”
“The seniors led the team this year by just going out and doing their job and showing them how to do it,” Clark added. “So I thank those seniors.”
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
BF 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 3 8 2
MV 0 0 0 0 2 1 1 4 7 1
WP: Nick Rinella
Bellefonte: Cade Fortney (2-for-3),CJ Funk (2-for-3) Nick Capparelle (1-for-2, 1 RBI), Daniel Catchmark (1-for-3, 1 RBI) Colton Burd (1-for-3), Bobby Marsh (1-for-3).
Meadville: Nick Frantz (3-for-3, 1 RBI), Alex Knox(2-for-3), Wyett Smith (1-for-2, 2 RBIs).