POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A slow beginning in the game turned into a magnificent start to the 2018 campaign for the Blue Devils.
The Gallia Academy baseball team trailed Point Pleasant by a score of 4-1 two innings into Monday night’s non-conference contest, but the Blue and White rallied late to earn a 9-6 victory in their season opener in Mason County.
The Blue Devils (1-0) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second frame, as a sacrifice fly by Morgan Stanley drove home Brendan Carter. Carter — who served as a courtesy runner for pitcher Josh Faro — stole second base and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Moreaux to help manufacture The Blue Devils’ first run of the contest.
PPHS (1-3), however, made the visitor’s’ lead short-lived in its half of the second inning. The Big Blacks erupted for four runs in the frame as Tucker Mayes led off with a single to spark the offense.
Two batters later, Joe Herdman followed with a one out single to put Point Pleasant with runners at first and third. Kyler Morrow tied the contest at 1-1 with a single to drive home Mayes. The Red and Black pulled ahead by a score of 2-1 just two batters later when Miles Williams was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The Big Blacks added two additional runs in the frame on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Carter Smith and an error at shortstop by Gallia Academy.
The Blue Devils cut the deficit to 4-2 in the top half of the fifth inning, as John Stout led off with a walk and later scored on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded off the bat of Braden Simms. GAHS stranded two runners in the inning, but would redeem themselves in their next turn at the dish.
The Blue and White rallied in the top of the sixth, as a walk by Faro started a four run inning for the visitors. Carter, Smith, Cole Davis and Dakota Young each scored runs in the frame, as GAHS utilized three walks and two hits to manufacture a 6-4 advantage entering the finale.
Gallia Academy tacked on three additional runs in the top of the seventh inning, as Simms started things off with a single and score following a sacrifice bunt by Kaden Thomas, walk to Faro, and single by Andrew Toler. The Blue Devils earned their eighth run of the contest on a two-out RBI single by Davis, followed by a passed ball in their next at bat by Wyatt Sipple to bring the score to 9-4.
PPHS notched two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Austin Richardson reached on an error with two outs and later scored on an error in centerfield that allowed Mayes to advance to second base to cut the deficit to 9-5. Sam Pinkerton followed with a single to drive in Brody Jeffers, but Gallia Academy closed out the inning in the next at bat with a strike out to earn its first win of the season.
Faro earned the victory for GAHS, as he pitched five innings, allowing eight hits, one walk and collected eight strike outs.
Smith was straddled with a no decision for Point Pleasant, as he worked five innings, allowed four runs on four hits, four walks and notched two strikeouts. Levi Mitchell suffered the loss as he surrendered two runs in one-third innings of relief.
Following the game, GAHS head coach Rich Corvin was pleased with the outcome of the contest — particularly the execution of small ball strategy late in the contest by his players.
“It’s tough when it’s this cold and it’s your first game,” said Corvin. “We executed some things that we really want to try and do all year long. We did things tonight we talked leading into the season — the sacrifices, two out hits, we had a couple of those in the sixth inning. The guys were getting on base when we needed them to.
“They are a pretty decent ball club and it was a good first win for us. We want to execute like that. I think early on, defenses aren’t ready for that type of baseball, so if you can execute the short game early in the season is going to be ahead of the game.”
In contrast, PPHS head coach Andrew Blain reviewed his team’s performance as one to be proud of, but also to learn from.
“I was proud of the way we battled back at the end. This has been the story for us so far this season. We are not executing when we get runners on base. We aren’t driving them in and just simply have to do a better job of getting runners in to score when they are in position to do so,” Blain said. “If we can’t do that consistently, we put too much pressure on your pitcher and your defense. I feel like the positives tonight came from our pitching. We’ve been throwing the baseball really well. Defensively, I’m pleased with how we are playing. We haven’t been giving teams extra outs or extra bases, but we aren’t putting pressure on opposing team defenses because we aren’t putting the baseball in play enough.
“We can’t let one game affect the rest of the week, but there’s definitely adjustments that need to be made and if we don’t make them it’ll be the same story day in and day out.”
Both the Blue Devils and Big Blacks returned to action on Tuesday, as GAHS traveled to Athens while PPHS journeyed to face Buffalo.
Scott Jones can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext 2106.