RACINE, Ohio — The tables have turned.
The fourth-seeded Southern baseball team — which swept Belpre in the regular season, and eliminated BHS from the 2017 postseason — had its 2018 campaign come to an end on Tuesday in Meigs County, as the the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles claimed a 4-2 extra innings victory in the Division IV sectional final.
Southern (13-6) took a 1-0 lead in bottom of the first, as Gage Shuler reached on an error and then scored on a two-out Jensen Anderson single.
The Golden Eagles tied the game at one with two outs in the very next frame, as Nate Godfrey scored on a bases loaded hit batter.
After back-to-back scoreless innings, Belpre went ahead 2-1 after a pair of errors in the top of the fifth.
Southern was held to one hit in each the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, but tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, as Dylan Smith scored on a Billy Harmon sac-fly. However, the Tornadoes didn’t make it farther than second base again in the game.
Belpre left the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, but didn’t break through until the top of the ninth. After Sean Tabler reached second on a one-out error, Godfrey doubled him home to give BHS a 3-2 lead. Godfrey came around to score on a Foster Brand, capping off the Golden Eagles’ 4-2 victory.
“We had those miscues continue and carry over from Friday night,” SHS head coach Kyle Wickline said. “It’s very disappointing, especially for the seniors going out the way that they did. We beat Belpre twice in the regular season, and we tried to warn them that it’s tough to beat a team three times in a row. Just too many miscues, and we didn’t string enough hits together.”
Southern had seven errors and left seven runners on base, while Belpre had two errors and 15 runners stranded.
Smith suffered the loss in three innings of relief for the Tornadoes, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk. Shuler started and pitched six frames for SHS, striking out seven batters, while surrendering two runs, one earned, on six hits and five hit batters.
“Our pitching did enough to win tonight,” said Wickline. “Gage Shuler and Dylan Smith did enough to win tonight, but the defense making mistakes gave them extra opportunities.”
Godfrey — who the Tornadoes didn’t see pitch in two regular season meetings — tossed a complete game for the Golden Eagles, allowing two runs on nine hits and a walk, while striking out four.
Smith led the Purple and Gold at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a run scored. Harmon, Anderson, Shuler, Logan Drummer, Ryan Acree, Garrett Wolfe and Logan Dunn each singled once, with Harmon and Anderson earning an RBI apiece, and Shuler scoring a run.
Leading the Golden Eagles, Godfrey was 2-for-5 with a double, two runs and one RBI, Bailey Sprague was 2-for-5 with a run, while Brand was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Prior to Tuesday, Southern had defeated the Golden Eagles in seven straight meetings, including a 4-3 decision in the 2017 sectional final.
Earlier this season, the Purple and Gold topped Belpre by a 15-1 count on April 10 in Racine, and the defeated the Orange and Black by an 8-5 tally on May 2 in Marietta.
This marks the final game in the Purple and Gold for SHS seniors Dylan Smith, Garrett Wolfe, Logan Dunn and Dakota Kowell.
“As a group, they’ve been here through the good times and the bad times,” Wickline said of his seniors. “There was a stretch there my first year, we started out 0-6 and there were a lot of question marks. There were some kids in situations where they didn’t know if they wanted to be here or not. Now, this is a situation where the seniors have brought the love of the game back, and a little bit of that work ethic.”
Belpre advances to the Division IV district semifinal at Chillicothe’s VA Memorial Stadium, where the Golden Eagles will clash with top-seeded Whiteoak on May 15 at 5 p.m.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.