DUBOIS — Brilliant pitching by Eli Glass and Cade Walker and four runs off fireballer Nate Beimel made the difference as the Clearfield Area High School baseball team knocked off No. 2 seed St. Marys 5-1 in the nightcap of the District 9 Class AAAA semifinal doubleheader at Showers Field Friday evening.
By avenging last year’s heart-breaking 3-2 finals loss to the Flying Dutch, the Bison advance to the championship game for the fourth year in a row.
They will have to contend with No. 1 seed Punxsutawney, which brushed aside Bradford 11-3 in the opener, back at Showers Field Wednesday at a time to be announced.
Glass and Walker teamed up to upstage Beimel, who was saddled with his first loss of the season because of three walks and a costly error ahead of a booming, bases-clearing double to center field by Allan Myers in the decisive fifth inning.
The Bison mound duo was so remarkable the Flying Dutch, who boasted a .335 batting average, managed only two hits, both by Beimel off starter and winner Glass.
The senior right-hander did walk six but was able to dig down with runners on base to either register one of his six strikeouts or induce flyball outs.
Walker, a junior left-hander, came on after Glass walked Brandon Sicheri and Jake Meeker to begin the lower fifth frame and turned in an extraordinary relief effort for the save.
He not only slammed the door on the Flying Dutch in his three-inning relief stint, he threw away the key, striking out six and retiring the last eight batters he faced.
“Phenomenal pitching by both of our guys,” longtime Clearfield coach Sid Lansberry said. “I can’t say enough about Eli or Cade. Great pitching to hold St. Marys to two hits. That’s the key right there.”
In a surprise to many, the St. Marys coaching staff opted to give the ball to Matt Bellina, and save Beimel for later because of his penchant for running up the pitch count.
“I understand their strategy,” Lansberry said. “But 85 pitches in four innings. That’s why he (Beimel) didn’t start.”
Bellina gave the Flying Dutch three solid innings to counter Glass’ effort, both allowing a hit and run after putting a runner on base in the first inning.
The teams scored in similar fashion.
For the Bison, Nate Barr was hit by a pitch, dashed to third when Glass rifled a single into right field and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Hayden Williams.
Only an outstanding hustle play by St. Marys catcher Jake Meeker prevented another Bison marker.
He ran down the line to back up first base on a grounder to short by Myers, leaving home plate unprotected, so when the throw went awry, third base coach Brandon Billotte waved around Nolan Barr, who was the courtesy runner for Glass.
However, the ball bounced off the dugout wall and right back to Meeker, who alertly sprinted back to home plate in time to make the tag.
That play was magnified when Sicheri drew a free pass, Beimel lashed a single through the vacant left side on a hit-and-run play and Shane Price lofted a sacrifice fly to center.
Beimel, a 6-4 southpaw whose fastball has been clocked in the 80s, relieved in the fourth, and Myers greeted him with a double to the left field fence but was left there by three strikeouts around a walk to Harrison Peacock.
The Columbia University commit couldn’t escape after walking Caullin Reed, Nate Barr and Glass in the next inning.
With the infield up, the Flying Dutch had chance for a force at the plate on Williams’ bouncer to the right side, but an errant throw gave the Bison what turned out to be the winning run.
Myers then came through with his big blow, crushing a Beimel hummer over center fielder Sicheri’s head for three RBIs.
“Real big! Real big!,” Lansberry said. “It’s a good thing we got that double, even though the winning run was a botched play. That changes the whole complexion of the game. If it’s only 2-1, you don’t know that happens.
“What we did this week, we pitched from about 25 feet away, just threw the ball hard to get the velocity. It worked for a couple guys.”
Beimel then retired nine Bison in a row, helping himself with a pickoff in the sixth inning, to finish with nine strikeouts and four walks.
“Beimel’s going D-I, and once he got in a groove, you could see what type of stuff he has. To beat a pitcher like that, that’s a big deal.”
Walker made sure of that after being called into the two-on, no-out situation in the bottom of the crucial inning.
After freezing Beimel with a fastball on strike three, he walked Price to bring the tying run to the plate, but Williams speared Bellina’s line drive that was headed down the left field line.
“Ordinarily, we’ll bring the corners up in that situation, but we thought we’re up 5-1, keep ‘em back,” Lansberry said. “If we bring the third baseman up, that’s a hit and at least two runs.”
Walker followed up with another strikeout and then two clean innings, striking out the side in the seventh, punctuating his superb effort by whiffing Beimel, a .421 hitter, for the second time.
“That’s one of the biggest wins in a long time,” Lansberry said. “But we’re not there yet. We need to beat Punxsy, and they beat us during the season. If we turn around and lose, we haven’t gained anything.”
The Bison will take a 12-9 record into the title game.
CLEARFIELD — 5
Caullin Reed ss 3100, Nate Barr cf 2200, Eli Glass p-lf 3110, Hayden Williams 3b 3101, Allan Myers c 4023, Cade Walker lf-p 3000, Harrison Peacock rf 1000, Karson Rumsky 1b 0000, Nick Domico dh 3000, Kyle Elensky 2b 2000. TOTALS: 24 5 3 4.
ST. MARYS — 1
Brandon Sicheri cf 2100, Jake Meeker c 3000, Nate Beimel 1b 4020, Shane Price 3b-1b 1001, Matt Bellina p-ss 3000, Alex Vollmer lf-rf 0000, Garret Bauer dh 1000, Michael Fitzgerald pr 0000, Kael Azzato 2b-3b 2000, Christian Coudriet ss-2b 3000, Greg Tettis rf-lf 3000. TOTALS: 22 1 2 1.
Score by Innings
Clearfield 100 040 0 – 5 3 1
St. Marys 100 000 0 – 1 2 4
E – Walker; Price, Bellina, Coudriet 2. LOB – Clearfield 6; St. Marys 8. 2B – Myers 2. SF – Williams; Price.
Clearfield – Glass 4+ innings (faced 2 batters in 5th), 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 6 BB, 6 K; Walker 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.
St. Marys – Bellina 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K; Beimel 4 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 9 K.
HB – Bellina 1 (Barr). PO – Beimel 1 (Barr).
W – Glass (5-2). L – Beimel (5-1). Sv – Walker (1).
Umpires – Jerry Neal (plate), Joe Shick (first base), Justin Skiba (second base) and Sam Bevak (third base).