Austin King hit a sixth-inning grand slam that gave his Blue Devils a one-run lead and the defending Southeastern Ohio Athletic League champs took a thrilling come-from-behind 9-8 victory over the Ironton Fighting Tigers in the season opener on Monday.
King’s blast brought his Blue Devils all the way back from an early 6-1 deficit and gave them an 8-7 edge entering the final frame. Ironton managed to even the score in the top of the seventh, but Gallia Academy added an unearned run in the bottom half of the inning to emerge victorious.
King finished 3-for-3 on the afternoon with a pair of doubles to go along with his round-tripper. His game-changing blast also came with two outs.
“I put pressure on him,” admitted Gallia Academy coach Rich Corvin. “I told him that there are 11 guys depending on him to do something. And he did it.”
King’s homer barely cleared the right field fence. Ironton’s Bryon Brammer, who was giving chase to the ball on the play, was injured after he crashed into the fence and laid on the ground for several minutes.
Brammer’s replacement, Keith Wetzel hit an RBI blooper in the top of the seventh, scoring T.J. Keith, and knotting the score at eight apiece.
But the Blue Devils answered, albeit with a little help from some shoddy Ironton defense. The Tigers committed a pair of fielding mistakes in the frame, the first of which put Cody Noble on third with nobody out.
Noble drew a lead-off walk off losing pitcher Chad Miler, who came on in the seventh. Noble stole second, but the throw on the attempt sailed into centerfield, allowing Noble to claim third as well.
Two Devils were strikeout victims, leaving the game in the hands of Nick Stevens. Stevens hit a bouncer toward first, but Ironton’s Jeremy Moore misplayed it, allowing Noble to score the game-winner.
Besides King, John Paul Finnicum was the only other Blue Devils with multiple hits, both singles. Noble, Austin Roush and Stevens also hit safely for the winners.
Ironton’s Nick Lewis and David Bridges had two hits each, including doubles. T.J. Keith also had two base knocks.
Ace Shawn Thompson went the distance to pick up the pitching victory. Ironton logged nine hits, but many of the runs were unearned, as Gallia Academy committed six errors on the day.
“Thompson pitched a great game, we didn’t give him much defensive help,” Corvin stated. “We gave up a couple of runs with two outs on some errors. Our defense was not what we expected tonight.”
The win was Gallia Academy’s first over Ironton during the coach Corvin era, which began four seasons ago. And it was the best time to get that first victory, as it is now a league contest with the expansion of the SEOAL.
Gallia Academy (1-0, 1-0 SEOAL) won its first baseball title in more than two decades last season, and despite losing many key contributors and fielding a very young squad, Corvin believes his club can repeat.
“We said coming in that its anyone’s ball game, especially in the South with coaching changes and guys graduating,” Corvin explained. “With us being co-champs last year, its just as much ours as anyone’s so we’re going to take it.”
Gallia Academy steps out of league play today to tangle with visiting Chesapeake. The Blue Devils go to new South Division foe Chillicothe on Wednesday.
Ironton 123 010 1 — 8 9 4
Gallipolis 100 304 1 — 9 8 6
Greg Kettel, Wes Runyon (6), Chad Miller (7) and Tanner Reed. Shawn Thompson and Kruize Wandling, David Rumley (4). WP — Thompson. LP — Miller. HR — King (1), sixth inning, grand slam.