PROCTORVILLE, Ohio — It was only a single run, but one large enough to slay a group of Dragons.
That’s because the River Valley Raiders, by scoring the game’s only run in the top of the first inning, took down the host Fairland Dragons 1-0 on Wednesday in a Division III sectional semifinal baseball bout.
And, with the way River Valley’s Dillon Ragan was pitching, all the Raiders needed was one run.
After back-to-back strikeouts to open the game, River Valley’s Jaime Bainter, Devin McDonald and Austin Ragan recorded consecutive singles off Fairland pitcher Hayden James.
Bainter scored on Ragan’s run batted in — and the 1-0 margin held up for the remainder of the day.
With the win, the Raiders — the 10th-seeded squad in the Division III sectional — raised their record to 11-13.
River Valley also punched its ticket to Saturday’s sectional championship tilt — against second-seeded Alexander, which swept the Raiders in the regular season.
This marks the second straight season in which River Valley vanquished its sectional semifinal opponent, setting up a championship chance.
Last year, the Silver and Black rallied past Oak Hill 8-7 to win its first-ever baseball sectional crown.
With that 1-0 advantage against the Dragons, Dillon Ragan retired eight in a row at one point, including 1-2-3 sides in the second and third innings.
In pitching a complete-game shutout gem, he allowed only three hits with no walks and struck out seven.
Ragan retired the Dragons 1-2-3 in the second, third, sixth and seventh stanzas — and faced four batters apiece in the first, fourth and fifth.
Fairland’s only baserunners were the result of its three hits — a Collin Damron two-out double in the first, a Damron one-out triple in the fourth, and finally an Evan Burcham leadoff single in the fifth.
In fact, all three were left in scoring position, with Damron at third both times and Burcham at second.
Of Ragan’s 70 total pitches, 54 went for strikes.
The Raiders rapped out 10 hits on offense, and even stranded six runners themselves, including the bases loaded in the seventh.
James also went the distance for the Dragons and struck out seven, as he also issued a pair of walks.
After stranding McDonald on third in the opening inning, James retired the Raiders 1-2-3 in the second and fifth frames — sandwiched around seeing the minimum three in the third and fourth.
Dillon Ragan singled in the third, while Bainter walked in the fourth.
Ragan and Bainter both singled in the sixth, but were stranded at third and second respectively.
In the seventh, Austin Ragan, Brycen Brumfield, Bailey Rhodes, Jack Farley and Dustin Barber all reached base in a row — with Ragan, Brumfield, Rhodes and Barber all singling with Farley drawing a walk.
The Raiders return to the sectional championship game at Alexander on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106