Blue Devils get clutch pitching
By Michael Boytim
BLOOMSBURG — Bellwood-Antis sophomore Travis Luensmann spent most of Monday’s first round PIAA Class 2A playoff game dominating on the mound.
But due to a relatively new rule about pitch counts, he spent the final inning sweating out the result while playing third base.
Fortunately for Luensmann and his Blue Devil teammates, fellow sophomore Mark Stewart overcame some nerves and induced a double play grounder from Ben Johnson with the bases loaded to preserve B-A’s 5-1 victory over South Williamsport at Don Engle Memorial Field.
“I was really glad to see Mark close it out,” Luensmann said. “Mark has been working all year and even in the offseason. Him closing this game out is a big step for him.”
Through six innings, South Williamsport managed almost nothing against Luensmann. The Mounties struck out 11 times and scored their lone run on a two-out double by Hunter Finn.
Yet, the game was in question in the seventh inning thanks in part to how dominant Luensmann was pitching. As the sophomore stacked up his strikeouts, his pitch count rose as well, leaving him with 97 through six innings. He started the seventh, but Logan Burkett reached on an error to start the inning after four more pitches.
Unable to face another batter due to PIAA rules, Luensmann moved to third base. Stewart hit the first batter he faced and walked another to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate.
“It’s really frustrating, because you still feel good,” Luensmann said. “There are rules, and you have to listen to the rules.”
Stewart threw a first-pitch ball to Hunter Corbin, but then something clicked. The right-hander threw three consecutive strikes and caught Corbin looking.
“I felt like we had a shot, because we’ve done it before and won a couple games that way,” South Williamsport coach Smokey Stover said. “We needed something good to happen with the bases loaded and nobody out, and they got a strikeout. That kind of took the wind out of our sails.”
Johnson followed by hitting a sharp grounder to the right side with a full count. Second baseman Ian McFarland tagged the runner and threw to first to end the game.
“I think Travis was still rolling, and I don’t think 125 would have hurt him today,” Bellwood-Antis coach Steve Conlon said. “That’s the rule, though. You have to have someone to come in next, and we were lucky to have Mark to come in and do it.”
The pitch count rule made headlines recently when State College was forced to forfeit a game it won on the field to McDowell after its starting pitcher pitched to a new batter with a pitch count at 101.
“Mark did a good job there overcoming some nerves,” Conlon said. “He got a big ground ball to get us out of here with a win.”
Earlier in the game, it was South Williamsport who struggled with its pitch count. McFarland reached on an error in the first inning and eventually came around to score on Jack Showalter’s groundout. Mounties starter Tripp Breen ended up needing 27 pitches to get through the inning and could not complete five innings before he hit 100 pitches. During that time, the Blue Devils added two more unearned runs and led 3-0.
“Scoring and getting up early with Travis on the mound is huge,” Conlon said. “With it 1-0 and Travis out there, it feels like the game is over. It gives our guys motivation to know this is our game.”
Finn’s double made it 3-1, but McFarland ripped a two-run double off Burkett, South Williamsport’s relief pitcher, to give B-A a cushion.
McFarland finished with three RBIs and a run scored from the leadoff position.
“I don’t think a guy has had a better postseason,” Conlon said. “He’s a senior and has been unbelievable. He’s been the right man in the right spot, and he got a huge hit to break things open for us.”
The Blue Devils, who made it all the way to the semifinals a year ago, will play Camp Hill, a 3-0 winner over Northwest Area, on Thursday at a time and place to be announced in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (5): McFarland 2b 311, Tre. Walker cf 201, Luensmann p-3b 400, Showalter c 300, Barr cr 000, Tro. Walker 1b 401, Whaley rf 410, Stewart 3b-p 312, Kost lf 000, Plank dh 222, Schmoke ss 100. Totals–26-5-7.
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (1): Finn 2b 301, Corbin 3b 400, Johnson 1b 401, Green lf 201, Sinibaldi ss 200, Winner rf 301, Harding c 200, Brewer cr 010, Breen p 000, Burkett dh-p 300, Person cr 000, Martin cf 100. Totals–24-1-4.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bellwood-Antis 100 202 0 — 5 7 1
South Williamsport 000 010 0 — 1 4 2
E–Schmoke, Sinibaldi, Johnson. 2B–McFarland, Finn. RBI–McFarland 3, Showalter, Finn.
Bellwood-Antis: Luensmann (W)–6 IP, 4H, 11K, 3BB, 1R, 1ER, 101 pitches; Stewart–1 IP, 0H, 1K, 1BB, 1HBP, 0R, 0ER, 19 pitches.
South Williamsports: Breen (L)–4 2/3 IP, 4H, 7K, 2BB, 1HBP, 3R, 0ER, 101 pitches; Burkett 2 1/3 IP, 3H, 2K, 1BB, 2R, 2ER, 33 pitches.
Records: Bellwood-Antis (20-4); South Williamsport (14-7).