Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023

The cycle lasted 14 years for retiring Bellwood-Antis Superintendent Dr. Rod Kuhns.
Dr. Kuhns started his tenure in the 1988-89 academic school year. During his first year at Bellwood, the football team went 13-1 with its first District VI title and the baseball team won a district title and marched all the way to the PIAA State Championship Game.
That PIAA final was played at Veterans Field in Altoona, because of excessive rains in Shippensburg, where the game was first scheduled. Bellwood-Antis took Oley Valley into extra-innings before dropping a tough 1-0 decision, despite 16 strikeouts by B-A lefty Randy Geis.
On Monday, almost 14 years to the day, the Blue Devils and the Bellwood-Antis superintendent completed the cycle.
Bellwood-Antis was once again involved in the PIAA baseball finals. Once again the decision was by one run. Once again the game was moved from the scheduled site – Bowman Field in Williamsport – to Harrisburg because of the spring rains.
The difference this time, as athletic director John Hayes noted in the victory celebration held at Bellwood Memorial Stadium upon the return of the team, was that this time, Bellwood-Antis won by one run.
B-A defeated Elk Lake 2-1 at the Harrisburg Senators’ Double-A minor league ballpark on City Island in Harrisburg.
Dr. Kuhns, who began his tenure at Bellwood-Antis as a loser on the baseball diamond, retires as a winner, with a gold medal presented to him by Bellwood-Antis head baseball coach Steve Conlon, on behalf of the 2003 Blue Devil team to show for it.
Adam Plummer tossed another pitching gem for the Blue Devils, giving up just one unearned run on two hits, striking out 10 and walking three to nail down the first state championship for any Bellwood-Antis team in the 66-year history of the school, since Antis Township joined with Bellwood borough in the summer of 1938.
Plummer recorded a 9-0 overall log during the season, with 108 strikeouts and just 23 walks in 75 and 1/3 innings on the mound. He also had an ERA of 1.39 and his opponents’ batting average against him was just .178.
The senior left-hander, who has signed a Letter of Intent to continue his education and play baseball at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, was even more impressive in the district and PIAA playoffs.
Plummer notched six wins during the Blue Devils’ long eight-game journey through the playoffs. He recorded 54 strikeouts, walked 10 and had an ERA of 0.63 in 42 2/3 innings against the toughest opponents in the district and state.
Plummer was equal to the task on offense as well, banging out two hits to lead the Blue Devils against Elk Lake.
Junior catcher Shawn Weiand singled in Ricky Shannon with an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth inning to plate the game-winner. With one out, Shannon reached safely when Elk Lake shortstop Tom Blaisure’s throw pulled first baseman Ben Lyne off the bag. Plummer lined his second singled of the game to right field to advance Shannon to second with two outs and Weiand wasted no time in stroking the first pitch from Seth Button into center field to score Shannon from second.
“Shawn Weiand has been swinging a very good bat,” said Conlon.
Going into the PIAA final, Weiand had led Bellwood-Antis in hitting with a .415 average followed closely by Zach Stere and Adam Plummer each batting .413.
“Shawn had two hits in the Western Final and his hit today was huge to get what proved to be the winning run in there,” said Conlon.
The two championship combatants scored sole tallies in back-to-back innings to set the stage for Weiand’s heroics, and Plummer’s mound performance made the run stand up.
Bellwood-Antis, uncharacteristically took the early lead. Through much of the regular season and in several of the playoff contests as well, Bellwood-Antis has fallen behind the opposition in the early part of the game, then put together a rally combined with solid defense and pitching to notch the victory.
“We started to believe we had a chance to make history when we won districts,” said winning pitcher Adam Plummer, “then went out the next week to play Conamaugh Township and scored two runs late in the last inning to win. After that, we believed anything could happen.”
On Monday, with Plummer mowing down all of the first nine batters to face him over the first three innings, with six strikeouts, getting the only batter to reach base on a pick off in the first inning, B-A scored in the bottom of the third to take the early lead.
Andy Brisbin led off the home half of the third with an infield single, moved to second on a two-out walk to Zach Stere and scored on Plummer’s first single to right.
“Scoring first was huge today,” said Conlon. “It gave our kids momentum. When you jump out on somebody and get that one run and force them to come from behind and have your ace on the mound, 1-0 might win.”
Elk Lake came right back to tie the score with an unearned run in the top of the fourth.
Johnny Pierson, who led off the game with a walk, but was promptly picked off by Plummer, was safe at second, on the Blue Devils’ only error of the game when sophomore Chris Alley made a great stop, but threw wildly to first. The Warriors’ senior catcher, Tony Rezykowski, singled to left to score Pierson with the tying run.
“Before the error we had in that inning, they weren’t hitting the ball much,” explained Plummer. “I think it was just a matter of our fielders getting comfortable with the ball being hit at them. Shawn’s hit was huge – any hit was huge today. You get a runner on, you want to get a score. I went out with a 1-0 lead and I figured that was all we would need, but we had the error and the run scored so we needed more. Shawn’s hit to bring in the winning run was just huge.”
While Plummer held Elk Lake pretty much in check, Bellwood-Antis threatened against the Warriors’ pitching in nearly every inning.
With the exception of its one score, Elk Lake had runners on only in the first when Plummer got himself out of trouble by picking the runner off. The only potential threat was in the sixth inning. Pierson walked, the third time he reached base in the game, and cleanup hitter Tony Dorman singled to left. Plummer pitched around trouble getting three infield popups. Adam struck out the side in both the third and fifth innings and was particularly unkind to the bottom of the Elk Lake order fanning the seven, eight and nine hitters twice each and holding them collectively to a zero-for-eight ballgame at the plate.
“Adam wasn’t throwing bad,” said Conlon, who led his Blue Devils, 22-4, to a state title in his first year of coaching. “He just gave up the one hit, but if we make the play instead of the error, that guy isn’t even on second and that hit would be a harmless single. When Adam gets into a tough situation, I have confidence Adam can get out of any situation.”
By contrast, Bellwood-Antis’ Zach Stere singled in the first for the game’s initial hit, Stere was stranded at second base and Plummer at first in the third inning, Nate Carlson singled, stole second and reached third in the fourth, Weiand was stranded at second after his RBI hit in the fifth and Ryan Myers singled and advanced to second on an error by pitcher Seth Button in the sixth.
Button was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 50th round this spring, as an outfielder and entered the championship final batting .504 in 2003, but couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield in three trips to the plate against Plummer.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” said Conlon when asked about the importance of being the first in B-A history to win a state championship. “When we get back, these kids will probably see an awesome amount of fans at the football stadium. The support was great throughout the playoffs by our fans, the kids backed each other, my assistant coaches, our scorer was here for every game, three people were taking pictures making films for us. It has just been an awesome year none of us will ever forget.”

By Rick