Blue Devils down Big Blacks, 8-3


By Paul Boggs - pboggs@civitasmedia.com



Point Pleasant catcher Miles Williams fires a throw to first base as Abe Stearns (5) backs up the play during the Big Blacks’ baseball game against Gallia Academy on Tuesday night.


Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

Gallia Academy’s Braden Simms is safe at second base as Point Pleasant shortstop Carter Smith swiped the tag attempt during Tuesday night’s non-league baseball game at Point Pleasant High School.


Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

POINT PLEASANT, W. Va. — Simply put, the young Blue Devils decided to utilize ‘small-ball’ in a big way.

That’s because Gallia Academy —not by hook or by crook but rather by steals, sacrifices and even a squeeze — amassed an 8-3 non-league baseball victory over host Point Pleasant on Tuesday night.

In scoring in four of the seven innings, the Blue Devils decided to bunt at least once in all four frames.

In those four innings, they successfully sacrificed at least once, including squeezing for a first-inning marker that made it 2-0 to set the tone.

But the Blue Devils’ defense took over late, especially when Point Pleasant pushed towards a comeback bid.

In the final three stanzas, after Gallia Academy amounted a 5-0 advantage and relief pitcher Kaden Thomas took over for starter Josh Faro, the Blue Devils twice threw out the Big Blacks on the basepaths —sandwiched in between a pair of double plays.

In the seventh, Gallia Academy opened up an 8-2 advantage —by taking advantage of back-to-back leadoff hit batsmen, a final sacrifice bunt, and a pair of initial at-bat RBI-basehits.

In fact, senior Quinton Yarger came off the bench to pinch hit with two outs — and promptly smacked a two-run single into right field to make it 8-2.

Given the dynamic of this season’s squad, the Blue Devils did their jobs as they were supposed to on Tuesday.

As a result, Gallia Academy is 2-0 —after opening the season with a 4-3 win over Washington Court House on Saturday night.

“That’s (small-ball) what we’re going to have to do,” said GAHS coach Rich Corvin. “That’s going to be the characteristics and signature of this team. Playing that kind of baseball right there. This was a great team effort. I think we utilized everybody we had here. Either through a courtesy runner (for pitcher or catcher under West Virginia state rules) or a pinch hit or however. But we used everybody, and that’s what we’re going to have to have.”

But it starts, and ends, with the “small-ball” approach.

After a scoreless first in which both clubs were retired 1-2-3 by each other’s ace pitchers, the Blue Devils decided to go small off the Big Blacks’ Abe Stearns in the second.

John Stout led off with a walk and stole second, then Faro sacrificed himself to move Stout to third.

Brody Thomas then scored Stout on an infield hit, before Cole Davis doubled down the left-field line.

With Davis at second and Thomas at third, designated hitter Adam Sickles squeezed home Thomas on a well-executed bunt.

In the fourth, Davis led off with a single to left, then Sickels sacrificed again —advancing Davis to third.

Davis then scored on an RBI-groundout by Dylan Smith, making it 3-0.

“The ‘small-ball’ is a big factor in baseball, and they were able to execute a lot of bunts. We just didn’t compete well with the ‘small-ball’. We’re growing every day and getting better every day, but that’s one thing we have to work on,” said PPHS acting head coach Eric Roberts.

Roberts, for the third and final game, was serving as head coach — as Andrew Blain completed his three-game suspension for an ejection.

While the Blue Devils were ‘small-balling’, the Big Blacks managed just four baserunners off Faro through the opening four innings.

Brody Jeffers walked and Miles Williams singled with one out in the second, Josh Wamsley reached on Gallia Academy’s only error in the third, and Williams singled with two outs in the fourth.

“We had a few missed opportunities,” said Roberts. “Their pitcher (Faro) threw well tonight. He had a lot of stuff (pitches) that tailed away from the right-handed hitters. We weren’t really thinking the other way when he was on the mound. But when the new pitcher (Thomas) came in, we competed better against his arm. We just have to capitalize on tight situations we come into.”

But by Point Pleasant not doing that early, the Blue Devils extended their lead to 5-0.

In the fifth, Braden Simms and Stout singled to lead off —sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt by Jeremy Brumfield.

Faro’s bunt single then scored Simms, as Thomas reached on an unsuccessful fielder’s choice that loaded the bases.

Davis, who finished 3-for-3 for Gallia Academy, then blooped a single into right field to score Stout.

At that point, Roberts relieved Stearns in favor of Levi Mitchell, who recorded the final two outs and left the bases loaded.

Stearns suffered the pitching loss, going the opening four and one-thirds innings and allowing five earned runs on eight hits and four walks.

That was the second stanza in which the Blue Devils left the bases loaded, as Simms and Stout walked with one out in the third — sandwiched around a single by Brumfield.

But Stearns induced Faro to ground into a 5-2 force play, before Stearns collected his second and final strikeout.

Speaking of strikeouts, Faro fanned four in his four-plus innings, but began to tire according to Corvin, and the Big Blacks opened the fifth with three consecutive singles.

Sam Pinkerton, Hunter Blain and Austin Richardson registered basehits, as Richardson plated Pinkerton to make it 5-1.

But Blain was caught stealing third, Kaden Thomas struck out Wamsley for the second out, and GAHS second baseman Tanner Allen robbed Stearns of a basehit by making a leaping lineout catch.

In the sixth, Thomas started a 1-6-3 double play, then after Williams doubled and scored on Alec Smith’s shot to center, the Blue Devils made arguably the defensive play of the game.

Smith, in trying to stretch his two-bagger into a triple, got gunned down on the Blue and White’s “rapid relay” — from the centerfielder Stout to the shortstop Davis to the third baseman Brumfield.

“Josh (Faro) started to get tired and we really wanted to get Kaden (Thomas) some experience. He hasn’t played baseball since junior high,” said Corvin. “We wanted to put him in that situation before we got into the heat of things with league play. That was good for him and we had good defensive plays. None was bigger than our ‘rapid relay’ in the sixth.”

Because, in what seemed like rapid fashion, the Blue Devils quickly made it 8-2 with three more points in the last.

Brody Thomas and Davis were both hit by PPHS pitcher Carter Smith, then Sickels sacrificed for the third time.

Kaden Thomas then helped his cause by bloop-singling to score Brody Thomas, setting up the two-out two-run single by Yarger.

“We were still in the game when it was 5-2. But when they tack on a few runs like that in the top of the seventh, it’s a killer, especially at this level,” said Roberts. “But we’re working on defending ‘small-ball’, getting better at that and just getting better in all aspects of the game.”

The Blue Devils outhit the Big Blacks 11-10, as both teams only committed one error.

Stout went 2-for-2 for GAHS, as he also singled in the sixth.

In the seventh, the Big Blacks gained their final run when Pinkerton led off with a walk, Smith singled to center, and Wamsley scored Smith with a double.

But Brumfield turned a 5-3 double play on the at-bat just before, and Stearns flew out to Stout to end the game.

The Big Blacks’ only other hit was a Tyler Mitchell single to lead off the sixth.

Point Pleasant, which fell to 1-4, hosted Spring Valley on Wednesday night (March 29).

The Big Blacks will now host Charleston Catholic tonight (Thursday, March 30) at 7 p.m., while Gallia Academy hosts Meigs at 5 p.m.

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106

Point Pleasant catcher Miles Williams fires a throw to first base as Abe Stearns (5) backs up the play during the Big Blacks’ baseball game against Gallia Academy on Tuesday night.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2017/03/web1_3.28-PP-Williams.jpgPoint Pleasant catcher Miles Williams fires a throw to first base as Abe Stearns (5) backs up the play during the Big Blacks’ baseball game against Gallia Academy on Tuesday night. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

Gallia Academy’s Braden Simms is safe at second base as Point Pleasant shortstop Carter Smith swiped the tag attempt during Tuesday night’s non-league baseball game at Point Pleasant High School.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2017/03/web1_3.28-GA-Simms.jpgGallia Academy’s Braden Simms is safe at second base as Point Pleasant shortstop Carter Smith swiped the tag attempt during Tuesday night’s non-league baseball game at Point Pleasant High School. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs

pboggs@civitasmedia.com

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