ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio —In the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division baseball championship chase, “Chase” got the better of “Chace” on Monday.
That’s because Chase Whitlatch and the host Meigs Marauders moved ahead of Chace Harris and the Alexander Spartans, as Whitlatch pitched the Marauders to a 2-0 shutout over Alexander.
In a battle of defending TVC-Ohio tri-champions, which were both 3-0 in the league this season, Whitlatch was spot-on — again.
As a result, Meigs remained undefeated in the TVC at 4-0, part of 9-0 overall.
The loss left the Spartans, which shared the league championship with Athens and Meigs last season, at 3-1 in the division — as part of 8-3.
“This was a big win for us, especially against Alexander who was TVC (Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division) champions with us and Athens last year. Both pitchers pitched phenomenal. Alexander is an outstanding team and both teams played an outstanding game. We just happened to make a couple more plays than they did,” said Meigs coach Brent Bissell.
In a well-played, primarily clean-quality contest, the Marauders managed single runs off Alexander’s Harris in the first and third innings.
Christian Mattox scored both points, as the first was unearned thanks to a walk, an error and a wild pitch — while the other came courtesy of the Marauders’ two hits.
The two runs were more than enough for Whitlatch to work with, as he pitched for his second straight shutout — both coming in the TVC-Ohio.
He also blanked visiting Athens 6-0 last Monday, as that game was played amid wind and cold.
On Monday, Whitlatch was working against Alexander — and getting the game in with the persistent threat of rain overhead.
He allowed just two hits and three walks, while hitting Lukas Thompson on the opening at-bat.
He struck out a dozen Spartans, including for all three outs in the fourth inning and two apiece in the final three frames.
He stranded seven Spartans over the opening five innings, retiring the side 1-2-3 in the final two — part of retiring the final nine batters in a row and 12 of his final 13.
“Give credit to Chase Whitlatch. There is a reason why he was TVC-Ohio Defensive MVP last year,” said Bissell. “With Chase on the mound, if we can just score some runs, we’re going to win a lot of ballgames. We have a lot of confidence in our kids when he is out there on the mound, and he did a great job again tonight.”
With Thompson at third in the first, and after walking Cory Chapman to put Spartans on the corners, Whitlatch induced an inning-ending groundout to Mattox at third.
The same situation occurred in the third frame, when Mason Chapman walked and Cory Chapman reached on the Marauders’ only error.
This time, with runners on the corners, Whitlatch induced an inning-ending groundout to Luke Musser at shortstop.
The only other Alexander baserunners were Taylor Kimbrough who singled in the second, Jordan Colburn who walked and stole second in the fourth, and Thompson who singled to lead off the fifth.
Harris pitched a gem of his own, allowing only the two third-inning singles — along with four walks and nine strikeouts.
He retired the Marauders 1-2-3 in the fourth and sixth, part of six in a row and 10 of his final 12.
He walked Mattox and Kaileb Sheets back-to-back in the fifth, after Musser reached on an error and Alec Bissell walked back-to-back in the second.
It was the first walk to Mattox in the first that resulted in the initial run — when Mattox went to third on a one-out error off the bat of Whitlatch.
With two outs and Mattox on third, he raced home on a wild pitch for the 1-0 lead.
In the third, Mattox led off this time with a slow-rolling infield hit to shortstop, then stole second and advanced to third on a Sheets sacrifice bunt.
Whitlatch then dropped a perfectly-placed bloop single behind the first-base bag at the end of the infield and into the outfield grass.
Mattox scored easily to make it 2-0, which ultimately held up for the final score.
“That second run was a big run. I would rather be up two runs than one, especially against Alexander,” said Bissell. “Chace Harris did a great job for them (Spartans) and kept us off-balance.”
But, with Whitlatch working on all cylinders, the Marauders made the most of their limited chances — in a key contest in the TVC-Ohio championship chase.
Meigs returns to TVC-Ohio action against another league undefeated on Wednesday — at Wellston.
The Golden Rockets are 3-0 in the division — with wins over Nelsonville-York, Vinton County and Athens.
“We’ve already played in a lot of pressure games this year. I told our kids from the beginning that we’re going to see everybody’s best shot and we have,” said Bissell. “Hopefully, we can continue what we did tonight at Wellston Wednesday. If we play like we’re capable of playing, we’ll be alright.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106