The Bellwood-Antis baseball team didn't win the Curve Classic title Saturday night, but the celebration following the Blue Devils' 6-4 win over Altoona in the semifinals certainly resembled a championship party.
Gloves were thrown, hats flew off and the dugout emptied as Bellwood basked in the glow of its first win over a Class AAAA school in coach Steve Conlon's 11-year career.
"They've been talking smack, I've heard," Bellwood-Antis starting pitcher Casey Gray said. "So this is a huge win for us. Seth [Hunter] pitched real well for us in relief and came through. It was just a great win."
With two outs, a three-run lead and just one runner on in the final inning, it looked as though Bellwood was going to cruise into the championship game against Hollidaysburg today at 1 p.m. at Peoples Natural Gas Field. However, back-to-back hits by Altoona's Dylan Conrad and Jake Chesney put the tying run on second base.
Shea Stayer worked a 2-0 count against Hunter before hitting a chopper back to the mound that ended the threat and the game.
"It means a little more to us," Conlon said. "It's not often we play a Quad-A school. For that reason it's a big deal, but we told the kids they just had to play it like any baseball game, and we played pretty well."
The Mountain Lions took an early 3-0 lead off Gray thanks to two errors in the first inning by Bellwood and a ball that was ruled a hit despite bouncing off a leaping infielder's glove. Gray put up a pair of scoreless frames in the second and third, but two more errors led Conlon to make a pitching change.
"Casey threw well, but the problem is, he's our shortstop and we were having trouble at shortstop," Conlon said. "I wanted to get him back at short, and Seth Hunter came in and was outstanding. He had all his pitches going."
Hunter allowed just one run over four innings and didn't allow a hit until the seventh.
Tanner Snyder, who started the game at shortstop, made up for his miscues in the field with a 4-for-4 day at the plate. After shifting to second base, Snyder made several defensive plays, scored a run and drove in another.
Following its three-run first inning, Altoona couldn't muster much of anything offensively. The Mountain Lions got their leadoff hitter on in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings but never brought him home. In the second, Gray picked off Joel Reighard and in the fourth, Bellwood catcher Trenton Creppage threw out Dom Lombardo trying to steal second.
"The scoreboard gave us four hits, but we only had two. Those were errors on those other ones," Altoona coach Tom Smith said. "We didn't hit the ball hard and didn't put the ball in play after the first inning. They hit the ball much better than we did. They deserved to win."
Conrad finished 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs for Altoona.
Bellwood tied it at three in the fifth inning when Chad Luensmann scored on a throwing error. Snyder doubled to begin the sixth inning, and after a sacrifice bunt moved him to third, he scored on a Hunter single. The Blue Devils tacked on two insurance runs when Hunter and Haden DeGenarro scored on another throwing error.
"We didn't play well," Smith said. "Give them all the credit, though. As evidenced after the win, you can see how they celebrated, they were up for this game. Good for them."
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (6): DeGennaro cf 411, Luensmann 1b 411, Gray p-ss 412, Campbell 2b 000, Zitterbart 3b 000, Beech dh 311, Lynn rf 400, Creppage c 401, Mock cr 000, Snyder ss-2b 414, Stapleton lf 300, Hunter p-3b 311. Totals - 33-6-11.
ALTOONA (4): Berardinelli ss 220, FInk 3b 310, Conrad c 412, Lytle p 000, Foose dh 200, Chesney dh 201, Stayer lf-p 301, Baker 1b 200, Lombardo rf 200, Reighard 2b 200, Wolf ph 100, Negri cf 300, McGinley lf 000. Totals -26-4-4.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bellwood-Antis000 213 0-6 11 4
Altoona300 000 1- 4 4 3
E-Snyder 3, Lynn, Berardinelli 2, Reighard. 2B-Snyder, DeGennaro, Beech, Chesney. RBI-Lynn, Snyder, Hunter, Conrad 2, Stayer, Baker. WP-Hunter. LP-Stayer. SO-Hunter 3, Gray 2, Lytle 3, Stayer 2. BB-Hunter 3, Gray 2, Lytle 1.
Umpires: Don McClure, Tim Mitchell
Records: Bellwood-Antis (3-0); Altoona (1-1).