CENTENARY, Ohio — Unfortunately, already, the Blue Devils’ road to a repeat title has hit an early speed-bump.
That’s because the Gallia Academy High School baseball team gave up two late runs to visiting South Point, and ultimately lost 2-1 on Monday in the Ohio Valley Conference opener.
The Blue Devils did take a 1-0 lead in the third inning —combining two errors, a wild pitch, a passed ball, a sacrifice bunt and a John Stout single for their lone run.
Dylan Smith, who led off by reaching on an error, scored the only Gallia Academy marker.
But the Pointers, sending eight batters to the plate off Gallia Academy ace pitcher Josh Faro, pushed across two earned runs on four hits in the sixth stanza.
The Blue Devils didn’t answer in the sixth or seventh, and bunted themselves into a double play following Cole Davis’ leadoff walk in the last.
Quinton Yarger’s pinch-hit single was the fifth and final Gallia Academy hit, but South Point pitcher Logan Wade struck out Smith to end the game.
With the loss, the young Blue Devils dropped to an even 2-2 —but the defending OVC champions are already in a 0-1 hole in the league.
Still, given the Blue Devils’ blueprint from last season, that experienced club captured the conference crown at 11-3.
“We only had five hits and one run. One run doesn’t win you a lot of games,” said GAHS coach Rich Corvin. “We just have to bounce back, because one loss, as we found out last year, is not going to cost you a league championship. We just have to move on from here. We’re a young ballclub still, so it’s one day at a time trying to get better.”
South Point, meanwhile, is now 5-1 (1-0 OVC).
In a classic pitchers’ duel between Faro and Wade, both tossed complete games, with the Pointers outhitting Gallia Academy 6-5 —while the Blue Devils stranded five baserunners and the Pointers six.
Faro retired the side 1-2-3 in the second and fifth frames, and faced the minimum three in the third and last.
Wade was equally up to the task —retiring the Blue Devils 1-2-3 in the opening inning, before facing the minimum three in the fourth and fifth.
He saw four batters apiece in the final two frames, as Wade struck out nine while Faro fanned six.
Both aces allowed only two walks.
South Point’s only other error was on a Smith at-bat in the fifth, as the two Blue Devil defensive miscues were to leadoff men in the fourth and seventh.
However, the Pointers plated their two runs in the sixth.
Douglas Shaffer singled to lead off, then scored on a one-out double by Wade.
Faro then walked Tanner Hill, as Jonathan Henline had a single to load the bases.
Elijah Adams then singled in Wade to make it 2-1, but Corvin thought his charges should have escaped the inning.
“They got two runs in the sixth with one out. We had a defensive letdown with the bases loaded. We threw the ball into the runner’s back going from third to home. It’s probably a double-play ball, maybe not. The next guy, we only get the play at the plate and not the play at first. Two crucial plays right there,” he said.
In the seventh, with Davis aboard, Faro popped up his bunt directly back to Wade —who promptly short-circuited the short-game try by doubling off Davis at first.
“We didn’t see the ball down. We practice it and practice it, but in a game, we have to execute it,” said Corvin.
The only other Blue Devil basehits were singles by Jeremy Brumfield in the second and sixth, and a bunt single by Brody Thomas in the second.
But Brumfield was stranded at second and Thomas at first — thanks to Wade striking out the final three outs in the inning.
Stout singled and eventually reached third in the third, but Wade induced Brumfield into a popout to shortstop.
Thomas then walked in the fourth and Smith reached on the error in the fifth, but both were caught stealing.
The Pointers’ only other baserunners were a Brody Blackwell one-out walk in the first, followed by a Beau Taylor single in the third and a Henline single in the fourth.
The Blue Devils returned home, and returned to OVC action, on Tuesday by facing Fairland.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106