BELLWOOD - Northern Bedford's stock and trade is its defense, and senior catcher Cory Furry is at its heart.
Furry's not a bad hitter in the clutch, either.
After comeback-minded Bellwood-Antis tied the Black Panthers with four runs in the bottom of the fifth on Tuesday, Furry, batting .176 entering the game, delivered a two-run single to break the deadlock and send Northern Bedford to a 12-5 road victory in a clash of two of the top high school baseball teams in their respective divisions of the Inter-County Conference.
Northern Bedford improved to 12-2, while the Blue Devils dipped to 10-4.
"We've been playing together as a team for a long time, and we're all pretty close. We know each other inside and out. We knew what we had to do,'' Furry said. "This was a pretty big game for us. It was just another step toward getting us ready for districts.''
Northern Bedford had what appeared a relatively comfortable 4-0 lead dissipate in a half-inning when Bellwood's Danny Beech crushed a homer to center field off Panther reliever Eric Grace. The Blue Devils were looking for their sixth come-from-behind win of the season.
The Panthers, though, answered in the top of the sixth. Wes Foor reached on an error, and Kyler Diehl followed with a single to bring Furry to the plate.
Furry's biggest asset is his play in the field. He has one error and no passed balls this year while throwing out four runners, and he does a great job handling NBC's outstanding pitching staff. But, although he only had six hits heading into this week, he made them count for nine RBIs, and he shot Casey Gray's 1-2 offering back up the middle to plate both runners and spark a five-run Panther inning that decided the game.
"It felt pretty good,'' Furry said. "I was kind of daring him to throw me a strike, because I was pretty pumped.''
It was the second time in five days Bellwood had come back to tie or take the lead only to fall short - Mount Union beat the Devils, 11-10, on Friday. B-A didn't do itself any favors, committing eight errors which resulted in 10 unearned runs, including five fielding miscues in the last two innings.
"That's a big concern. We are really struggling fielding the ball. Baseball is 90 percent pitching and defense,'' Blue Devils coach Steve Conlon said. "We did this the other day, where we came back, and then we gave up the lead with mistakes.''
Bellwood also only had six hits, but it made its only one in the fifth count, combining Beech's shot with three walks and a Gray sacrifice fly.
"I felt a little worried, just being on the mound and seeing that one go over the fence,'' said Grace, who picked up the pitching win and also drove in three runs. "We've played good defense [though], and hit the ball when we needed to.''
Grace managed to get out of the inning without further damage and then retire Bellwood in order in the sixth. Grace relieved Logan Fluke, who only allowed two balls to reach the outfield and had seven strikeouts before he aggravated a shoulder injury from football and walked the first three batters in the fifth.
"Everything was working for me. I felt good coming out of the bullpen. Then, in the fourth, I hyperextended my elbow a little bit, and it hurt,'' Fluke said.
Fluke also homered to center to highlight a three-run top of the first inning. Jake Stern was 3-for-5 with four runs for the Panthers, while Furry and Isaac Stern had two hits apiece.
"We fell asleep for a couple of innings, but I brought them in and said this is where we prove we're a good ball team,'' NB coach David McIlnay said.
Game notes: Bellwood starter Ryan Stuby struck out seven and walked none. B-A pitchers only issued one walk. ... Gray was the only Blue Devil with multiple hits, coming up with a pair of singles. ... Both teams return to action with divisional games Thursday. Bellwood hosts Claysburg-Kimmel, while Northern entertains Tussey Mountain.
NORTHERN BEDFORD (12): J. Stern ss-p 543, Sollenberger cf 511, I. Stern 2b-ss 502, Grace 1b-p-1b 401, Fluke p-1b 411, Foor 3b 321, Diehl rf 411, Furry c 302, Frederick cr-2b 020, England lf 410. Totals - 37-12-12.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (5): DeGennaro cf 211, Mock ph 100, Luensmann 1b 200, Wertman ph 111, Gray ss-p-ss 202, Zitterbart ph 000, Beech dh 311, Creppage c 101, Stuby p-ss 200, Hunter p 000, Astore, ph 100, Lynn rf 300, Snyder ph 100, Stapleton lf 300, Dionis 3b 210, McNelis 2b 210. Totals -26-5-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Northern Bedford301 005 3-12 12 0
Bellwood-Antis000 040 1- 5 6 8
E-Luensmann, Lynn, Gray, Stuby 3, Creppage, Hunter. LOB-Northern Bedford 7, Bellwood-Antis 7. 2B-I. Stern. HR - Fluke, Beech. RBI-Grace 3, Fluke, Gray, Beech 3, Furry 2, J. Stern, Astore. SF-Gray, Grace. SB-. PO-Sollenberger.
Northern Bedford: Fluke-4 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO; Grace (W)-2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO; J. Stern-1 IP, 2 H 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO.
Bellwood-Antis: Stuby-5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO; Gray (L)-1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 1 ER 0 BB, 0 SO; Hunter-1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO.
Fluke pitched to three batters in the fifth.
WP-Stuby, Grace, Hunter 2. BK-Hunter. PB-Creppage.
Umpires: Tom Stoner (plate), Al Lingenfelter (bases).
Records: Northern Bedford (12-2); Bellwood-Antis (10-4).