ALBANY, Ohio — For a while, the Raiders enjoyed a Sunday “walk” — or 10 — in the park.
However, too many errors — and too few hits — spoiled River Valley’s Sunday fun-day, and ultimately ended its season.
In committing five errors and only accounting for three hits, the Raiders’ 2-1 lead eventually evaporated into a 7-3 loss to the host Alexander Spartans in Sunday’s Division III baseball sectional championship tilt.
“We hurt ourselves with errors and we didn’t have hits. You’re not going to win ballgames that way. You have to have more hits than three and less errors than five,” said RVHS coach Bobby Jeffers. “Dillon (Ragan) pitched well enough to win the game and we should have won the game. But we didn’t take care of what we needed to. This is a tough one.”
The Raiders — the 10th-seeded squad in the sectional — captured their first-ever baseball sectional title last year, upsetting Oak Hill as the 12th-seed in comeback fashion.
This season — in aiming to repeat the feat on the second-seeded Spartans — River Valley quickly erased a 1-0 deficit, held a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning, and were even tied 3-3 as late as the fifth.
But the Spartans scored twice in each of the fourth thru sixth stanzas, as Alexander ace pitcher Chace Harris — despite four walks — kept the Raiders off the scoreboard despite allowing them on the basepaths.
Three Spartan pitchers combined to allow 10 total walks, including four by Harris — who worked the final three frames.
The Raiders couldn’t take full advantage, though, leaving two baserunners on in the second, third, fifth and seventh innings.
“We didn’t take care of what we needed to at the plate. It really hurts when you leave your basrerunners on,” said Jeffers. “You have to hit to win games and we didn’t.”
With the loss, as Alexander swept the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division season series with River Valley, the Raiders end their campaign at 11-14.
The Spartans will return to the Division III district tournament with a record of 17-8.
Harris gained the win on the mound in relief, striking out six of the 13 Raiders he faced — including seven straight at one point as he entered after a leadoff walk to Justin Sizemore in the fifth.
Sizemore was retired on a 3-4 fielder’s choice by Jamie Bainter, but River Valley loaded the bases on back-to-back walks to Devin McDonald and Austin Ragan — as Bainter scored on an errant pickoff throw to third base.
However, Harris — on a chilly and windy day at Alexander High School — was just getting loose, and just getting warmed up.
With runners on second and third, he struck out the next two Raiders looking to end the inning — then struck out two more in the sixth following a leadoff groundout.
With two outs in the seventh, and Alexander leading 7-3, McDonald and Ragan walked again — but Harris recorded another strikeout looking to end the game.
Harris didn’t allow a hit, as Sizemore’s one-out infield single in the first, McDonald’s bloop single to lead off the second, and McDonald’s single to left in the third were the only Raider knocks all day.
Sizemore, though, was caught stealing third — while Ragan was retired on a fielder’s choice in the fourth following a leadoff walk.
Austin Bauer, the second Spartan pitcher, picked off Dustin Barber at first base for the second out in that inning.
That set up the Spartans taking a 3-2 lead, as Jordan Colburn conked a leadoff triple off RVHS starting pitcher Dillon Ragan — and scored two batters later on Shea Grigsby’s RBI-groundout.
The errors then started to impact the Raiders, as Taylor Kimbrough reached on one following Grigsby’s at-bat, then scored on Kyle Howard’s single combined with an error in right field.
In the fifth, Alexander went ahead for good at 5-3 — as it combined Lukas Thompson’s leadoff single, a walk to Harris, a Colburn RBI-groundout and the final two Raider errors for its two runs.
In the sixth, and against Ian Polcyn, the Spartans tacked on two more runs when Howard had a leadoff infield hit, stole second, and went to third and home on wild pitches.
Mason Chapman walked, then Harris helped himself with a one-out triple to left-center to cross Chapman.
Howard had scored the game’s opening run on a leadoff walk, stealing second, advancing to third on a Chapman sacrifice bunt, and finally scoring on Thompson’s RBI-groundout.
Polcyn and Austin Ragan in the sixth faced only four batters apiece, as Dillon Ragan was the losing pitcher of record — following five frames tossed.
He allowed five runs but only three were earned, scattering six hits and three walks with one strikeout in facing the lineup three times through.
Ragan, after being hit by a Wes Shellman pitch with the bases loaded in the second, gave the Raiders the 2-1 lead.
McDonald’s single, back-to-back one-out walks to Brycen Brumfield and Bailey Rhodes, Jack Farley’s fielder’s choice and an RBI-walk to Barber to score Brumfield tied the game at 1-1.
Rhodes scored when Ragan was plunked for the 2-1 edge.
From there, though, it was a good Sunday “walk” in the park spoiled.
River Valley graduates three seniors — Bainter, Sizemore and Dillon Ragan.
But Jeffers said the Silver and Black boasts some young talent to be reckoned with in the near future.
“We have big shoes to fill with those three seniors, but we have some good ones coming up and I believe we will be alright,” he said. “So many of the games we had this year were decided by one or two runs where we had the bases loaded at the end of the game and just couldn’t capitalize. We actually had games won right down to the end and just couldn’t finish them. Our record, for what we were, doesn’t really rightly reflect us. But we definitely should be at least a .500 club next year.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106