ELIZABETH, W.Va. — Talk about a successful opening day.
The Eastern baseball team began the 2019 season with a pair of mercy rule victories over non-conference host Wirt County on Saturday, sweeping the season-opening twinbill by counts of 16-5 and 13-3.
Eastern (2-0) opened the day with back-to-back three-run innings and led 6-0 by the midway point of the second. Wirt County (1-6) tallied its first run in the bottom of the second and then sent the Eagles down in order in the top of the third.
EHS made up for the lost inning in the fourth, surging for 10 runs on seven walks, four hits and one hit batter. Wirt County scored once in the fourth and three times in the fifth, but couldn’t avoid the 16-5 mercy rule setback.
EHS sophomore Matthew Blanchard was the winning pitcher of record in three innings of work, allowing one run on two hits and a walk. Wyatt Watson tossed two frames in relief, allowing four runs on four hits and a pair of free passes. Blanchard struck out five Tigers, while Watson had two strikeouts.
Levi Pahl suffered the setback on the mound for Wirt County.
Leading the Eagles at the plate, Bruce Hawley was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and one run batted in, Blanchard was 2-for-3 with a double, a run and two RBIs, while Isaiah Fish went 2-for-3 with two runs and one RBI.
Steven Fitzgerald had a single and a pair of runs in the win, while Blake Newland scored a game-best three runs and added one RBI. Nate Durst crossed home plate twice and earned one RBI, Brayden Smith added one run and one RBI, while Ryan Harbour came around to score once for the guests.
Hunter Hickman led the hosts, going 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
Eastern committed two errors and left six runners on base in the opener, while Wirt County had four errors and seven runners stranded.
The Eagles wasted little time in the second game, following up a four-run first inning with a seven run second. The Tigers roared back with three runs in the third inning, but Eastern ended a two-inning drought and sealed the 13-3 mercy rule win with two runs in top of the fifth.
Smith was the winning pitcher of record in 2.2 innings on the mound for the Eagles, allowing three runs and a quartet of walks. Reynolds pitched the final 2.1 scoreless, allowing one hit and two walks. Both EHS pitchers struck out four batters in the win.
Jacob Starcher took the loss on the hill for the hosts.
Eastern’s offense was led by Harbour, who was 2-for-2 with a run and two RBIs, and Newland, who was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs. Blanchard, Smith and Durst each singled once and scored twice, with Blanchard earning three RBIs and Smith adding one.
Preston Thorla singled once and scored once in the win, Fish added a single and two RBIs, while Watson crossed home plate one.
Elijah Boston had Wirt County’s only hit in the contest, a single in the fourth inning.
Eastern committed four errors and left four runners on base, while the Tigers had a trio of errors and eight runners stranded.
After beginning league play at home on Monday against South Gallia, Eastern will be back on the road with a trip to Belpre on Wednesday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.