Blue Devils edge Panthers in 8 innings

By Paul Boggs -

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio — You can never make it to the top unless you work some overtime.

For the Gallia Academy High School baseball team, following Wednesday’s extra-inning victory at Chesapeake, the Blue Devils are all alone in first-place in the Ohio Valley Conference.

That’s because the Blue Devils broke a 5-5 tie with a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning, and defeated the host Panthers 7-5 to take over sole possession of the league lead.

Gallia Academy amassed its sixth consecutive victory — all in the OVC — and is now a league-best 9-3, part of 12-5 overall.

Indeed, the Blue Devils dug themselves all the way out of an 0-2 hole in the conference standings.

Ironton, after its results on Wednesday with South Point, is in second-place at 8-4.

Gallia Academy, the defending OVC champion, can clinch no worse than a share of the league championship —should it defeat visiting Portsmouth on Friday.

But first, the Blue Devils had to survive the Panthers and complete that season sweep — and it took an extra inning in which to do so.

The score stood tied 2-2 after three frames — as Chesapeake scored single runs in the opening two innings, while GAHS had single points in the second and third.

The Blue Devils then seized a 4-2 advantage with two runs in the fifth, before the Panthers roared back with three runs in the sixth to lead 5-4.

Then, in the seventh, GAHS pinch-hitter Matt Moreaux drew a leadoff walk, followed by walks to Tanner Allen and Wyatt Sipple to load the bases.

Moreaux, off Chesapeake relief pitcher Austin Browning, scored the game-tying run on a sacrifice fly by Josh Faro.

The Blue Devils did have a chance to take the lead, but stranded runners at first and second — after Browning induced Braden Simms into a fielder’s choice.

Gallia Academy then gained the 7-5 edge in the top of the eighth, sending eight batters to the plate and combining two leadoff hits, an intentional walk, a hit batsman, a fielder’s choice and a walk for its two runs.

Against Browning, Cole Davis and Brody Thomas led off the eighth with singles, then Jeremy Brumfield was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Browning plunked Allen with a pitch to cross Davis, then following Sipple hitting into a fielder’s choice, a walk to Faro brought in Brumfield.

In the final two innings, Blue Devil reliever John Stout faced four batters apiece — and stranded a Panther runner at third.

In the seventh, Evan Burcham singled and advanced to third on an error, but Stout sat down the final three batters, including on a pair of strikeouts.

In the eighth, and after a leadoff strikeout, Casey McComas doubled, but Stout induced a groundout and a flyout to end the game.

Stout, who took over for Blue Devil starter Bailey Walker, secured the pitching win with working the final two-and-a-third shutout innings.

He allowed only three hits and one walk, while striking out three.

Walker went the opening five and two-thirds, allowing three earned runs on four hits and four walks with eight strikeouts.

He retired the Panthers 1-2-3 in the third and fifth frames, as Gallia Academy —despite stranding a hefty 14 baserunners compared to Chesapeake’s 10 —outhit the hosts 9-7.

Browning was the third of four Panther pitchers, as Tyler Eddy started and threw the first four-and-a-third.

He scattered six hits and walked one, while giving up four runs with three being earned.

Davis paced the Blue Devils by going 4-for-5, as Dylan Smith went 3-for-5 and Brody Thomas 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and twice being hit by pitches.

Faro finished with four runs batted in — on a pair of walks and two sacrifice flies.

Seven separate Panthers posted a basehit apiece, as Eddy’s two-run single in the sixth tied the tilt at 4-4, before Browning singled in McComas for the short-lived 5-4 lead.

Gallia Academy will travel to Wellston on Saturday for a non-league doubleheader at 11 a.m.

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

By Paul Boggs