CURWENSVILLE — Having a rivalry is both good and bad for schools. It’s good because the chances are high that when the two teams meet, the game is one that brings out emotion, and desire. It also can be bad since rivalries historically can produce some bad blood.
Curwensville has its share of rivalries in its league play, but one rival that is outside their league happens to be just a short drive up the road on Rt. 879. When the Golden Tide take on the Clearfield Bison, it is always a game that brings out a lot of fans, and a lot of tough play. Earlier in the season, it was the Bison in control with a 10-2 victory on their home diamond. On Tuesday afternoon, it was the Tide’s turn to host this rivalry just down the hill from the high school.
Through the first few innings of the game, both squads kept things close. But then a problem occurred, one where no bats were used, but instead meant easy runs, and frustrated defense.
Curwensville committed no errors in the entire game, but could do nothing when players earned a free pass to first base. In total, 12 batters got the easy trip to the bag, and that meant easy runs on the tally. In the end, after five innings, Curwensville fell to the Bison in a mercy ruled 13-0 final.
Bison head coach Sid Lansberry credited his team with being patient at the plate and letting the pitches come to them.
“We had good at-bats. Whenever you’re facing pitching like that, you can’t just go out there hacking. We had discipline at the plate, and it paid off,” Lansberry said.
Avery Francisco started the game for Curwensville, knowing that he likely was not going to stay in very long since he was pitching again later in the week. Through the first two innings, he stayed consistent, yielding only two hits, with only a pair of walks. It was the third inning where things began to turn loose. Francisco tagged out Thayne Morgan to start the inning, but then struck Reese Wilson on a 3-1 pitch to put him on the plate. That only made things worse.
Zane Morgan then walked on four straight pitches, then Tommy Hazel got the same at-bat. With the bases loaded, Will Myers then saw his time at the plate end just like the previous two. Four pitches, and a trip to first. This time, though, it meant Wilson trotted home, putting the first run on the board.
Eli Glass followed suit with nearly the same plate appearance, although his time lasted five pitches, that led another run to the plate. A 2-0 score with four consecutive walks ended Francisco’s day, one where he was saddled with the loss.
Noah VonGunden took over with one out, and Ty Bender at the plate. A new pitcher did yield a different result, but one that favored Clearfield. Bender took a two-ball, two-strike pitch and blasted it to the outfield. The hit was enough to bring in both Hazel and Myers, and put the score at 4-0.
On the opposite side, the pitching for Clearfield was solid. Jake Sorbera took the mound as the starter on this day, and proved his worth. He went all five innings, yielding just three hits, and five strikeouts. It was more than enough for the win on this afternoon.
“I think that’s the best he’s thrown the ball. He had some nice curve balls. Just really pleased with his performance,” Lansberry said.
At the same time, Curwensville head coach Tom Harzinski knew this game was all about pitching, and how giving so many players an easy pass to the plate made the difference.
“That was the story of the game. We walked too many batters. When you give a good team like Clearfield 12 walks, they’re going to capitalize on it,” Harzinski said afterwards.
The fourth inning ultimately was the one that doomed Curwensville.
Thayne Morgan was struck in the shoulder to start the inning, then Wilson got his second walk of the game to put runners on first and second. Zane Morgan then popped out, with Hazel then flying out to second to put two outs on the board. That’s when things began picking up for Clearfield.
Myers had the hit of the game, blasting a two-RBI double to right field, bringing in his teammates and making it 6-0 with two outs still on the board. Glass then got in on the action, hammering an RBI-single that went to right field, but a hesitation from Christian Bakaysa allowed Myers to get home. Bender then walked, followed by Seth Bumbarger hitting a shallow single to load the bases.
Designated hitter Nate Barr then got another free pass, plating the eighth run of the game, and leaving the bases loaded. At that point, VonGunden was relieved of his duties. Into the ball game came Broc Heitsenrether from the bullpen.
His time atop the mound was brief, very brief.
He walked Thayne to start his time, bringing in Bender, and making the score 9-0. He then struck Wilson, his second hit by pitch of the game, on the first throw, bringing Bumbarger in to score.
Zane Morgan got his second hit of the game, hitting a two-RBI single to center field, that brought in Barr and Thayne. He then walked Hazel to load up the bases once again. After just four batters, Heitsenrether was sent to the dugout.
Josh Terry moved from his post in left field to try and close out the inning. It did not start well as he walked Myers, bringing Wilson in for the 13th run of the game. Finally, after 14 batters stepped in the box, the fifteenth, Glass, flew out to right field to end the inning.
“That’s been our Achilles Heel all season, one bad inning,” Harzinski said.
Meanwhile, Lansberry was extremely pleased with his team at the plate, especially showing patience with the pitching, as he said that when facing pitchers that are struggling to find the strike zone, it’s being patient that matters most, and what yields the best results.
“I thought we were a little flat to start the game. It was a big win last night, real big one for us in the league. We might’ve experienced a little hangover from that. But we got things going in the second inning, and that got us fired up.
“Will’s double and Ty’s RBI-single kinda opened the game up.”
The fifth inning was strong for Curwensville, considering they were now on their fifth pitcher of the game.
Austin Butlin, who normally catches for the Tide, came to the mound to finish things out. In the best outing by any Tide pitcher, Butlin only went nine throws to close out the top half of the inning. But by then, it was already too late for any kind of comeback. Despite Matt Carter’s single to left, and VonGunden reaching on the lone error of the game, Sorbera closed it out to earn the Bison the victory.
Clearfield (10-6) is looking ahead to one of its biggest games of the season, another rivalry that spans across all their scholastic sports activities, when they host the Mounties of Philipsburg-Osceola. Lansberry is already looking forward to the 4:30 p.m. start on Thursday.
“That’s a real big one. It’s senior night. PO-Clearfield is always a good game,” he said.
Meanwhile, Harzinski was cautiously optimistic about his team. Despite their 4-10 record, there is still an opportunity for Curwensville to get into the playoffs.
“There’s still light at the end of the tunnel. We have to get a couple more wins. Get in the playoffs, and see what happens,” he said.
That quest for the playoffs begins on Thursday when Curwensville has a 4:15 p.m. start on the road against the Kane Wolves.
SCORE BY INNING
Clearfield 004 90 – 13 7 1
Curwensville 000 00 – 0 3 0
Clearfield – 13
Thayne Morgan 2B 3201, Reese Wilson CF 2300, Zane Morgan C 3122, Tommy Hazel LF 2100, Will Myers SS 2214, Eli Glass 3B 3121, Ty Bender RF 2112, Seth Bumbarger 4110, Nate Barr DH 3100. TOTALS 25 13 7 10.
Curwensville – 0
Noah VonGunden SS/P 3000, Ralph Evans DH 2000, Jeremy Irwin PH 1000, Avery Francisco P/SS/2B 1000, Bryce Timko LF 2000, Zach Brewer 1B 2010, Zach McClure 2B/C 2000, Austin Butlin C/P 1000, Matt Carter PH 1010, Christian Bakaysa RF 1000, Devin Barrett RF/PH 1000, Josh Terry CF/P 2010. TOTALS 19 0 3 0.
E: T. Morgan. LOB: 8/5. 2B: Myers. HBP: T. Morgan, Wilson (2). HBP-T. Morgan, Wilson (2). SB: Morgan (2), Z. Morgan, Bender, Wilson (2). CS: Glass.
Clearfield: Sorbera-5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 K, 1 BB.
Curwensville: Francisco-2.1 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 K, 6 BB; VonGunden-1.1 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 K, 3 BB; Heitsenrether-0 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 K, 2 BB; Terry-0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 K, 1 BB; Butlin-1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB.