WINFIELD, W.Va. — “Too many free bases and not enough run support leads to a very bad equation.”
Those were the sentiments from Point Pleasant baseball coach Andrew Blain following Monday night’s 7-2 loss to host Winfield in the opening round of the Class AA Region 4, Section 1 tournament being held in Putnam County.
The fifth-seeded Big Blacks (7-23) led 2-1 midway through the fourth, but the guests committed five errors over the next three frames while aiding fourth-seeded Winfield (13-12) in scoring six unanswered runs down the stretch.
PPHS produced three of its four hits in establishing that early one-run cushion, but the Red and Black mustered only three baserunners after the fourth inning.
The lack of offensive and defensive support, especially late, ultimately spoiled a solid starting performance from senior Abe Stearns — who allowed three earned runs, eight hits and zero walks through five innings of work before a sixth inning implosion.
In that sixth frame, WHS produced four runs on two hits, two walks, two errors, a hit batter and a balk — allowing the Green and White to turn a narrow 3-2 cushion into a sizable five-run advantage.
The Big Blacks started the seventh by putting a pair of runners on first and second, but the hosts followed with three consecutive outs to wrap up the five-run setback.
“It’s frustrating because it’s been the story for us all season long. If you give a team extra chances, good teams are going to capitalize and punish us for it … and that’s exactly what happened tonight,” Blain said. “I thought Abe (Stearns) threw the ball really well tonight and gave us a good chance to win, but we didn’t make all the plays behind him and we didn’t give him a lot offensive support.
“That puts a lot of pressure on your pitcher, to have to throw extra pitches and do more than he is supposed to do. He threw 110 pitches and eventually wore down in the sixth inning when it all went bad, but there was only so much that he could do.”
The Generals struck first in the bottom half of the first as Jonathan Morris delivered a two-out single that plated Nicholas Ferguson, giving the hosts an early 1-0 cushion.
PPHS managed to knot things up in the second as a two-out single by Sam Pinkerton allowed Alec Smith to come home, then Tucker Mayes doubled in Miles Williams with nobody out in the fourth to secure Point’s only lead of the night at 2-1.
Samuel Estel singled with one out in the bottom half of the fourth, then advanced to second on an errant pick-off throw to first base. Hunter Morris followed two batters later with a two-out single to right field, which plated Estel for a two-all tie.
After stranding a runner at second with one out in the top of the fifth, Point Pleasant’s troubles started to take shape in the home half of the frame as Ferguson led things off with a single and later scored on an error — giving the hosts a permanent 3-2 advantage.
Stearns started the sixth, but an error and a walk put Jay Frampton and Hunter Morris on first and second with nobody away. Stearns followed by recording a strikeout, but Frampton was trying to steal third on the full count offering.
The pick-off throw ended up in left field, allowing Frampton to score for a 4-2 contest. Ferguson followed with an infield pop-up to shortstop, but the ball fell into play untouched as runners were again at first and second as Stearns was pulled.
Evan Clay took a 2-2 offering from reliever Carter Smith and belted a double down the left field line, which allowed both Morris and Ferguson to come homeward for a 6-2 advantage.
Clay advanced to third on a balk and scored one batter later as William Hancock grounded out to short, concluding the 7-2 outcome.
The Big Blacks were outhit by a 10-4 overall margin and also committed five of the six errors in the contest. The hosts stranded eight runners on base, while PPHS left five on the bags.
Both teams used three pitchers apiece, with Stearns taking the tough-luck loss after allowing six runs (five earned), nine hits a walk over 5.1 innings while striking out eight. Clay was the winner after allowing two runs (one earned) and four hits over six frames while fanning two.
Mayes, Smith, Pinkerton and Bradley Koons had a hit apiece for the Big Blacks in the setback.
Ferguson paced WHS with three hits, followed by Clay and Jonathan Morris with two safeties apiece. Estel, Aaron Blackwell and Hunter Morris also had a hit each for the Generals.
After a disappointing evening, Blain tried to remain positive headed into their next contest — which will be Wednesday at a yet to be determined location.
“It’s an uphill battle, but it only takes one win to get things going in a positive direction. We need to refocus and make sure that we are ready to play whoever and wherever on Wednesday,” Blain said. “At this point, if we aren’t prepared for Wednesday — then there really is no excuse for it. We’ve got a job to do … and that job is to take care of the baseball better.”
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.