CENTENARY, Ohio — In beating the darkness that descended upon Robert Eastman BallField on Monday, as well as the visiting Ironton Fighting Tigers, the Gallia Academy High School baseball team finds itself in a good spot.
That’s because, thanks to topping the Tigers 8-7 in 10 innings in the completion of a suspended game — and prevailing 9-4 in a regularly-scheduled matchup — the Blue Devils are alone in first place in the Ohio Valley Conference championship chase.
Gallia Academy — for this season only — is competing in two leagues, but is giving greater emphasis on winning the OVC in its first campaign in that league.
The Blue Devils took a big step forward, actually two big steps, in capturing the conference title thanks to Monday’s sweep.
While the first bout was the completion of a suspended affair from April 1 with the game tied 5-5 entering extra innings, the second was called after six innings due to darkness.
Ironton had battled into the seventh with the Blue Devils recording two outs, but the game was stopped there — with all statistics and final score reverting back through six complete.
Gallia Academy, as part of 10-6 overall, is atop the OVC with a league mark of 7-1.
The lone loss was a 7-6 decision at South Point on April 4, but to take two from Ironton was imperative.
The sweep left the Fighting Tigers at 5-3 in the league.
“It’s a good night. Two wins is two wins,” said Gallia Academy coach Rich Corvin. “”We had to have that first one (victory in suspended game) to have the momentum in the second one. I told our guys in between (games) that the pressure is on them (Fighting Tigers) to win this one to keep it (first-place position) even. Now we’re in first place (in OVC).”
And, in competing in both the OVC — and even the final season for the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League — the Blue Devils need fresh pitching arms to navigate a 20-game conference schedule.
One fresh arm is a freshman ace — Josh Faro.
Faro tossed the complete game, allowing four earned runs on eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
After facing four Tigers in the opening inning, and allowing three runs on four hits including a two-run double to left by Dane Wilson in the second, Faro retired the Tigers 1-2-3 in the next three frames.
Ironton’s only other run came in the sixth — when Garrett Carrico led off with a single and scored on a two-out single by Ethan Duncan.
At one point, Faro retired 10 consecutive — as 65 of his 88 pitches went for strikes.
“The freshman (Faro)…he doesn’t overpower anybody, but he just keeps the ball around the plate and can throw three pitches for strikes which are huge. That’s all we want him to do and we can do the rest,” said Corvin. “He’s going to be a guy that we’re going to have to go to, so he’s going to have to get used to it.”
Wilson, who actually pitched the final one and two-thirds of the suspended game and suffered that loss, was the starting and losing pitcher in the regular game.
He gave up eight runs on five hits and two walks, but only five of the runs allowed were earned.
The Blue Devils combined two hits, an error, back-to-back hit batsmen and a walk for their three runs in the first.
Kole Carter led off with a double, Matt Bailey reached on an error, and Anthony Sipple and Eric Ward were both hit by pitches.
Ward scored Carter, before Jeremy Brumfield singled in Bailey — and John Stout’s RBI-walk scored Sipple.
In the second, the Blue Devils broke the 3-3 tie when Bailey singled, Sipple walked and Ward was again hit by a pitch.
With one out, Ryan Terry cleared the bases with a single to right-centerfield.
“They kept him in (Wilson) to start the second game and that kind of helped us. We were going to try and run his pitch count up. That was the goal,” said Corvin.
The Blue Devils succeeded in doing just that.
In the fourth, Sipple singled to center, then scored on an E-7 off the bat of Ward.
Ward later scored on an RBI-groundout by Brumfield to make it 8-3.
Cody Rawlins then relieved Wilson and went the final two and two-thirds, as the Blue Devils scored their final run off him in the sixth.
Sipple singled to lead off, advanced to second and third on a Ward walk and a Brumfield sacrifice bunt, then scored on a wild pitch.
Ironton actually outhit the Blue Devils 8-7, as Duncan led the way with two hits.
The Tigers tied the game at 3-3 when Duncan, Kyle Kleinman and Bryce Thomas all singled and scored, with Thomas singling in Kleinman and Wilson doubling in Duncan and Thomas.
Like Sipple, Carter collected a pair of hits for GAHS, including a single in the sixth.
The win in the regular game was spurred on by the Blue Devils defeating the Fighting Tigers in the suspended tilt.
With Gallia Academy as the visiting team, both squads scored twice in the ninth after a scoreless eighth.
In the 10th, Wilson walked Terry with two outs, as he stole second and advanced to third on the overthrow, setting up Braden Simms singling him home.
Marcus Moore, who pitched the final eight innings for the Blue Devils and gained the win, allowed only a Carrico single in the 10th.
Moore amassed 139 pitches in those eight total frames, with 91 going for strikes.
He allowed just four hits despite surrendering six walks, and struck out 10 as only two of his five runs were earned.
“I’m proud of our guys for being able to get that win (in suspended game). We’ve done that it seems like for the last week-and-a-half. We’re down three twice last week and won, we were down five on Saturday (in 8-7 Ohio Valley Conference win over Coal Grove) and came back and won. The same thing tonight in that we battled and battled, so I am proud of those guys,” said Corvin.
And Corvin should be, as his Blue Devils sit alone atop the OVC.
Gallia Academy, after an SEOAL tilt at Logan on Tuesday, aims for revenge against South Point today (Wednesday, April 20).
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106