WINGATE - Third-seeded Bellwood-Antis was one out and two strikes away from beating second-seeded Bald Eagle Area and advancing to the District 6 Class AA championship.
And then the young Blue Devils' hopes of playing at PNG Field for the title were dashed.
With two outs, an 0-1 count on BEA's Bryan Greene and runners on first and second, the No. 2 hitter smacked Casey Gray's 104th pitch into the left-center field gap and both runners, including Bryce Greene from first base, scored to give the Eagles a 6-5 stunning win on a sun-splashed Thursday at Doc Etters Field.
"You have to give their kid credit," said B-A coach Steve Conlon, whose team ended up 18-4. "He was down one strike, and he got a hold of one. I thought Casey pitched his heart out. I thought all the seniors played a good game today. It's tough when you lose, especially like that. Sometimes you'd rather get beat 20-0 than lose a one-run game like that."
"It feels really good right now," BEA coach Jim Gardner said. "It was certainly tense up until that point. I know these kids are going to battle to the end, and we certainly pushed it to the very end. It's got to be extremely disappointing for Bellwood. They had it. It was right there."
BEA (14-6) plays Central at 7 p.m. Tuesday at PNG Field in the championship.
B-A, which outhit BEA 10-4, scored three runs in the top of the first, including one run on an RBI double by Tanner Snyder, who along with Jake Stapleton and Randy Zitterbart had two hits.
Gray had a rough start to the game as he threw nine straight balls before throwing a strike. Unfortunately, his first strike came on a Ryan Dyke three-run home run over the left-field fence with the wind blowing out. It was the first homer at the field this season.
After that, Gray settled down and retired nine in a row before walking cleanup hitter Jake Cleaver in the fourth inning. Gray gave up only four hits while striking out seven and walking four.
"I thought we were going to get on him," Gardner said, "and to this moment, I can't understand why we didn't hit the ball. I have to hand it to their pitcher. I don't know what he had. He didn't appear to be overpowering, but he pitched an amazing game against us today."
"I think he started mixing it up a little bit," Conlon said. "He started throwing a little more curveballs, and it started to work for him."
BEA tied the score, 4-4, in the fifth when Jason Jones led off with a double - all of BEA's hits were extra- base hits - moved to third on an Alex Struble sacrifice bunt and scored on Bryce Greene's sacrifice fly.
The Blue Devils used the short game to take a 5-4 lead in the sixth. Leadoff hitter Jordan McCracken was hit by Jeff Bennett, who hit three Devils, and Sawyer Kline reached when his bunt was mishandled. Jake Stapleton's bunt hit loaded the bases, and Chad Luensmann's sacrifice fly plated McCracken.
After Bennett hit Gray, BEA reliever Colton Comly worked out of the jam with a ground ball to second baseman Brandon Gettig, who cut down Kline at home, and inducing Snyder to hit a fly ball out for the third out. B-A left the bases loaded in the fifth and sixth and stranded 10 runners.
"There were two pretty good pitchers going," Conlon said, "and we thought if we could get one run up on them, we'd have a chance. We just couldn't get a clutch hit there to get anything in."
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (5): Stapleton cf 312, Luensmann ss 301, Gray p 311, Creppage c 301, Brunner cr 000, Snyder 1b 312, Mock dh 300, Burns 2b 000, Zitterbart 3b 402, McCracken rf 221, Kline lf 200. Totals - 26-5-10.
BALD EAGLE AREA (6): Bryce Greene ss 120, Bryan Greene c 311, Dyke 3b 311, Bennett p 000, Comly p 000, Cleaver dh 200, Kobularak 1b 301, Butterworth pr 000, Guenot cf 300, Gettig 2b 210, Jones rf 301, Bartley pr 010, Struble lf 200. Totals - 22-6-4.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bellwood-Antis310 001 0-5 10 0
Bald Eagle Area300 010 2-6 4 1
2 outs when winning run scored in bottom of the seventh
E-Bennett. 2B-Stapleton, Gray, Snyder; Bryan Greene, Kobularak, Jones. HR - Dyke. RBI-Stapleton, Luensmann, Creppage, Snyder; Dyke 3, Bryan Greene 2, Bryce Greene. SAC-Kline 2, Struble. SF-Luensmann, Creppage; Bryce Greene. LOB-Bellwood-Antis 10, Bald Eagle Area 3. HBP-Stapleton, Gray, McCracken (by Bennett); Bryce Greene.
Bellwood-Antis: Gray (L)-6 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO.
Bald Eagle Area: Bennett-5 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO; Comly (W)-1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO.
Records: Bellwood-Antis (18-4); Bald Eagle Area (14-6).