Stroking the ball Tyrone pitcher John Shaffer rips a base hit during Game One of the Eagles/Bellwood-Antis doubleheader. Shaffer drove in a run in each game and pitched a complete-game win in Game One. (The Daily Herald/Bob Miller)
|It’s hard to tell if Tyrone manager Dustin Schoening had any reservations when the Golden Eagles started Game 2 of their double-header against Bellwood-Antis yesterday on Stadium Drive.
The Eagles had just taken the first game of the series 5-4 behind the strongest pitching performance to date by junior Johnny Shaffer – a 7-inning gem that saw him strike out 9 batters.
And now Tyrone’s first-year manager had a decision to make. Under PIAA regulation, Shaffer had two more innings he could conceivably pitch, and by all accounts he was feeling fine. But would any manager start the same pitcher in both ends of a double-header?
To put the decision into perspective, the last time a major league pitcher started and won both ends of a double-header was 1926.
Schoening made the call, and in doing so set the tone for the second game. Shaffer came through with two strong innings of work, allowing one run and one hit, leaving with his team tied 1-1.
After the Eagles were forced to come from behind two times, Tyrone scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and held on for an 8-5 victory and a sweep of the twin bill. It was the fourth win in a row for the streaking Eagles, who improved to 6-9, and kept alive their hopes of playing in the District 6-AA tournament.
“He really helped us out,” said Schoening. “Playing five games in four days, he really gave us a lift.
“We have a goal set of making the playoffs, so we have to keep pushing. We need to win the games that we should win and ride this wave of confidence.”
The Eagles certainly looked like a team playing with confidence in the late stages of both games, winning twice in their final at-bat.
In Game 1, it was sophomore Eric Desch who came through with the big hit, a two-strike RBI single off B-A starter Nate Plummer. In Game 2, the Eagles patiently waited out reliever Nate Gray, drawing five walks in the bottom of the sixth to go ahead without ever recording a base hit.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils went down quietly in each of their final at-bats, underscoring the problems B-A and manager Steve Conlon have dealt with most of the season – lack of offense. In Game 2, Bellwood sent the top of its line up to the plate in the last inning and got runners aboard only by way of a fielder’s choice and an error by Desch.
“We played well up to a point and then we couldn’t put seven innings together in either game,” said Bellwood-Antis coach Steve Conlon.
In Game 1, the Devils’ 9, 1 and 2 hitters were retired in order in the last inning.
It was a particularly tough way to lose Game 1, where Plummer went pitch-for-pitch with Shaffer in one of his best outings. He went the distance and surrendered only three earned runs while fanning eight.
“You have to give Bellwood a lot of credit,” Schoening said. “Both games were very competitive and they wanted to win.”
B-A led 2-0 through three innings in Game 1 thanks to heady base running and timely hitting. In the first, freshman Garrett Lender singled, stole second, and swiped third after Shaffer received a throw back from catcher Brock Anders but turned his back on the runner. When Shaffer tried to throw out Lender at third, his throw went wild and Lender scored.
“Nate Plummer threw a really good game in the first game, and we just couldn’t make the plays for him,” commented Conlon. “Then in the second game, we scored some runs, but we just couldn’t throw strikes.”
An inning later, Adam Kovac doubled and scored when Plummer singled to right.
Tyrone tied it in the fourth with RBI singles from Doug Rudy and Anders, and went ahead 3-2 in the fifth when Shaffer singled to the hole at short, scoring Aaron Cunningham.
The Eagles made it 4-2 in the sixth when Cunningham doubled to plate Evan Brush, running for Anders, but B-A came back with two in the bottom of the frame to tie it. Catcher Jake Manning singled to lead off the inning and scored on a Justin Miller ground out, and later Jimmy Watters scored from third on a passed ball.
That set the stage in the seventh for Desch, who fell behind 0-2 and battled back to 2-2 before serving an outside pitch to right, scoring Rudy from third.
“Even with two strikes, I knew he would come through,” said Schoening. “We had some big hits with two outs. That’s a good feeling.”
Lender sent B-A to an early lead again in Game 2, singling with one away before advancing to third on a Manning single and scoring on a passed ball.
But the lead was short-lived, as Cunningham drew a walk off starter Ian Pankoke to start the bottom of the first, stole second, and came around to score on a single to right by Shaffer.
Randy Hoover relieved Shaffer in the third and surrendered two quick runs before settling in to limit B-A to just one hit over the last four innings. Pankoke singled to start the inning, and Gray followed with a line shot to third that was fielded by Shaffer. His throw to second went into the outfield, when right fielder Matt Brooks overran the play. Pankoke scored and Gray ended up on third, and he scored later on a ground out by Manning, making it 3-2.
Tyrone went ahead 4-3 with three runs in the fourth, including RBI singles from Hoover and Mike Moore, but the Devils regained the lead 5-4 with two runs in the fifth.
Donnie Hunter’s RBI single in the bottom of the fifth pulled the Golden Eagles even at 5-5, setting up Tyrone’s three-run sixth. Hoover started the inning by drawing a walk, and Gray retired the next two batters before struggling with his control. With two down, he walked Shaffer intentionally and delivered a five-pitch walk to Brooks to load the bases.
Rudy followed, and Gray went to 3-0 on the sophomore shortstop before hitting him with pitch No. 4, plating Hoover and putting Tyrone ahead 6-5.
Anders followed with another walk making it 7-5, prompting Conlon to lift Gray in favor of Mike Albright, who walked Donnie Hunter to score Brooks.
“We’re very confident right now,” Schoening said. “We’re doing an excellent job running the bases and bunting, and we’re coming through with clutch hitting.”
The Eagles will need confidence to complete a run into the playoffs, and they’ll be tested again Monday at home against Central.
B-A’s next game is Tuesday against Moshannon Valley at Bellwood.
Tyrone 5 Bellwood-Antis 4
TYRONE – Cunningham, cf, 2-1-1; Moore, 2b, 4-0-1; Shaffer, p, 4-1-2; Brooks, 3b, 4-0-0; Rudy, ss, 4-2-2; Taylor, dh, 2-0-0; Desch, 1b, 2-0-1; Hunter, lf, 3-0-0; Anders, c, 4-0-1; Brush, cr, 0-1-0; Hoover, 3b, 1-0-0. TOTALS: 30-5-8.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS – Gray, ss, 3-0-2; Lender, lf, 4-1-1; Manning, c, 3-1-1; Mock, 2b, 3-0-0; Watters, rf, 3-1-1; Miller, 1b, 3-0-0; Kovac, dh, 2-1-1; Dionis, cf, 0-0-0; Plummer, p, 3-0-1; Albright, 3b, 3-0-1. TOTALS: 27-4-8.
TYRONE 000 211 1 – 5-8-1
BELLWOOD-ANTIS 110 002 0 – 4-8-2
E: Shaffer, Albright 2
2B: Gray, Mock, Cunningham
RBI: Shaffer, Rudy, Desch, Anders, Miller, Plummer
SO: Shaffer 9, Plummer 8.
BB: Shaffer 2, Plummer 2.
WP: Shaffer LP: Plummer
Tyrone 8 Bellwood-Antis 5
BELLWOOD-ANTIS – Gray, ss-p, 3-2-0; Lender, lf, 3-2-1; Manning, c, 4-0-1; Mock, 3b-ss, 3-0-1; Watters, rf, 3-0-0; Miller, 1b, 2-0-0; Kovac, dh, 3-0-0; Dionis, cf, 0-0-0; Plummer, 2b, 3-0-0; Pankoke, p, 2-1-1; Albright, p-3b, 27-5-4.
TYRONE – Cunningham, cf, 1-2-0; Moore, 2b, 4-0-1; Shaffer, p-3b, 3-1-1; Brooks, rf, 2-2-1; Rudy, ss, 3-0-0; Anders, c, 3-0-1; Brush, cr, 0-0-0; Hunter, lf, 2-1-2; Desch, 1b, 4-0-1; Hoover, 3b-p, 2-2-1. TOTALS: 24-8-8.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS 102 020 0 – 5-4-2
TYRONE 100 313 X – 8-8-4
E: Mock, Dionis, Shaffer 2, Brooks, Desch
RBI: Shaffer, Rudy, Anders, Moore, Hunter, Hoover, Manning
SO: Pankoke 4, Gray 1, Shaffer 1, Hoover 2.
BB: Pankoke 4, Gray 5, Albright 1, Hoover 3.
WP: Hoover LP: Gray
Base hit B-A freshman Garrett Lender singles through the Tyrone infield during the Blue Devils doubleheader with the Golden Eagles. Behind the plate is Tyrone catcher Brock Anders. (The Daily Herald/Stacey Manning
Special delivery The Eagles’ Randy Hoover throws to home plate during the second game of the Tyrone/B-A doubleheader. Hoover picked up the second game win with four plus innings of relief. (The Daily Herald/Stacey Manning)