CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Contact wasn’t the problem. The problem revealed itself after contact occurred.
The Southern baseball team committed four costly errors and ultimately had a stellar 2022 campaign come to a close Saturday night during a 6-2 loss to top-seeded Lucasville Valley in a Division IV district semifinal contest at VA Memorial Stadium in Ohio’s First Capital City.
The ninth-seeded Tornadoes (12-7) — outright champions of the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division — surrendered two unearned runs off of those quartet of miscues, which allowed the Indians (16-2) to storm out to a quick 4-0 cushion through three innings of work.
SHS answered with a run in top of the fourth as a bases-loaded balk allowed Lincoln Rose to come plateward for a 4-1 deficit, but Valley countered with a 2-run fifth that gave the hosts their largest lead of the night at 6-1.
Josiah Smith scored on a Kaiden Michael ground out in the seventh to whittle things back down to four with two away, but a ground out followed in the next at-bat to complete the 6-2 outcome.
Southern made contact throughout the course of the night, with the exception of a down-in-order on consecutive strikeouts during the top of the third. Conversely, the guests did not have 3-up, 3-down frame defensively.
The Tornadoes and Indians both produced six hits apiece in the contest, with VHS also committing one error in the game. SHS stranded six of the nine runners left on base.
Afterwards, SHS coach Kyle Wickline was distraught with the way the game played out. And yes, the miscues did play a major role in those emotions.
“The four errors were big. We knew coming in against a very good team like Valley, we could not give them any extra outs. We gave them extra outs, and they showed why they are the top team in our district draw and in the state,” Wickline said. “We made some great plays, made plenty of contact throughout the night and left everything we had on the field, but there were some things that we did that we just couldn’t afford to do.
“It’s a tough way to watch the season end like this, but we have plenty of reason to hold our heads high. We were outright league champs, sectional champs and we were within striking distance of the top-ranked team in the state. I’m proud of these guys for what we’ve been able to do this season.”
Jace Copley singled home Christopher Queen with two away in the bottom of the second, allowing Valley to establish a permanent lead of 1-0.
Jaekyn Ridout started the third by reaching on an error, then a 1-out single by Tate Queen and another error allowed Ridout to come home for a 2-0 edge.
George Arnett followed with a triple that plated Tate Queen, then Arnett came plateward on a Christopher Queen ground out that increased the cushion out to 4-0 through three frames.
A pair of singles from Morrow and Tate Queen started the bottom of the fifth, then Arnett received a walk to load the bases. Christopher Queen hit an infield pop-up that resulted in the ball being dropped, and the relay throw to the plate wasn’t in time to get Morrow.
However, a throw was made back down to second base for a force out on Arnett for the second out of the inning. Tate Queen took advantage of the situation and headed plateward on the relay throw down to second, and the relay back to the catcher wasn’t in time — giving VHS a 6-1 edge after five complete.
It was a tough-luck outing for senior starter Will Wickline, who allowed six runs (four earned), six hits and two walks over six innings while striking out eight.
Nickel picked up the win after surrendering two earned runs, six hits and two walks over 6.1 frames while fanning a dozen.
Smith paced the Tornadoes with three hits, followed by Wickline with two hits. Rose also had a safety in the setback.
Tate Queen led Valley with two hits and two runs scored.
Valley faces fourth-seeded Leesburg Fairfield in the D-4 district final Monday night at VA Memorial Stadium.
It was the final baseball game for SHS seniors Will Wickline, Cade Anderson, Lincoln Rose, Tanner Lisle and BJ Parsons in the Purple and Gold.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.