BELLINGHAM - Sometimes it takes a village to win a baseball game.
The Bellingham Post 7 Senior American Legion baseball team employed this all-hands-on-deck tactic Friday, July 12, against the Whalley Chiefs in a 5-1 win at Joe Martin Field.
Post 7 coach Steve Slesk's four-man rotation on the mound of Chad Richter, Tyler Knutsen, Brice Longanecker and Marshall Weston held the Chiefs to five total hits over seven innings while only allowing two runners to advance beyond second base.
Richter started the game on the mound, popping catcher Forest Longanecker's glove with relative ease, inevitably cruising through an effortless 1 2/3 first inning.
"Chad looked great," Slesk said. "He's been throwing really, really well."
Richter negotiated the second in similar fashion, but a predefined pitch count held the rangy right hander to just 30 pitches, ending his day after 2 1/3 innings.
Knutsen relieved Richter, getting the final two outs of the inning via a soft fly out to right and a fielder's choice by shortstop Pete Pennylegion.
While a revolving door on the mound kept Whalley at bay, Bellingham's offense relied more on the stable at the top of the order.
Pennylegion, cemented in his role as the leadoff hitter, excited Bellingham's offense from the onset after reaching on a bunt single in the top of the first.
"I'm like, 'I might as well try it,'" Pennylegion said of the bunt. "It was open, so I might as well go for it. ... Getting on base is all I am trying to do. Get on base as much as I can, however, doesn't matter to me. It's my job."
A facet of Pennylegion's game that would be ever-more apparent as the innings progressed.
Aaron Burke followed Pennylegion's suit, bunting the ball in between the pitcher and the third baseman, and a Jake Manson line drive to right gave Post 7 the bases loaded and no outs. Bellingham, though, could only manage one run when Pennylegion scored after Cooper Jansen grounded into a double play.
Nursing a 1-0 lead heading into the third, Pennylegion would again spark the Post 7 offense after beating out an infield single that popped over the Chiefs' starting pitcher. The menacing shortstop swiped second the very next pitch, leaving a plume of dirt in his wake that would consume much of the infield.
"He's been a great leadoff guy for us," Slesk said. "He's been a real key to our offense. He's great to coach."
After Burke flew out to center for the second out, Manson drove a down-and-away curve to center, scoring Pennylegion. Pennylegion ended the game 2 for 3 with two runs scored.
It was the second consecutive at-bat Manson lined a single to the outfield on a pitch that was down and away, something Slesk said his strong third baseman does better than almost anybody he has seen.
"Jake has very high baseball IQ," Slesk said. "He knows what counts to hit in, and where guys are at and where he needs to drive the ball to the right side.
"He gives himself up for the team."
Manson ended the game 2 for 3 with two RBI.
Bellingham would tack on runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth to grow the lead to four as the stable of pitchers continued to snuff out any potential of a comeback.
Unfortunately, one of Bellingham's key guys and table setters, Burke, suffered an injury to his mouth and face after being hit by an errant throw while crossing home plate. The play happened after Manson dribbled a ball just beyond home plate, and Burke, who was stealing third at the time, rounded and scored when the Chiefs' catcher opted to throw Manson out at first. The first baseman's throw back to home hit Burke in the side of the face just as he crossed home plate.
"He got hit right in the jaw," Slesk said of the play. "He's a key piece for us, so we hope he is OK."
POST 7 5, CHIEFS 1
Chiefs 000 100 0 - 1 0 0
Post 7 101 111 x - 5 0 0
WP: Chad Richter (N/A). LP: Anderson (N/A). Highlights: Bellingahm: Pete Pennylegion 2-3 2R SB, Jake Manson 2-3 2RBI, Jeremy Brockmann 1-2 RBI. Aaron Burke 1-3 R.