Big Blacks blank Generals in Game 1


By Paul Boggs - pboggs@civitasmedia.com



Point Pleasant second baseman Tristan Austin catches the throw to apply the tag on Winfield’s Tate Hancock during Wednesday’s Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 baseball tournament game at Point Pleasant High School.


Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

POINT PLEASANT, W. Va. — After two days, and actually only an hour-and-a-half, the Point Pleasant High School baseball team is on the doorstep of a return to regionals.

That’s because the host Big Blacks, by scoring single runs in the fourth and seventh innings along with an honest complete-game shutout by Abe Stearns, blanked the Winfield Generals 2-0 on Wednesday in Game 1 of the Class AAA, Region 4, Section 1 tournament.

Wednesday’s finish, which only took an hour and seven minutes to complete following 23 minutes of play on Tuesday, put the Big Blacks up 1-0 in the best-of-three series.

With the win, Point Pleasant raised its record to 16-12 — and won its third consecutive contest.

The loss left the Generals, which split the regular-season series with the Big Blacks, at 13-15.

The contest began on Tuesday, but was suspended in the top of the third inning with Point Pleasant batting because of inclement weather.

In a fast-moving pitcher’s duel on both days, and with Stearns in control on the mound, all the Big Blacks basically had to do was carve out a pair of runs against Winfield’s Casey Frye.

They finally did that once play picked up on Wednesday, as Stearns stranded four Winfield runners — combined with a couple of tagouts at second base.

Afterward, PPHS coach Andrew Blain was glad Stearns maintained momentum from Tuesday, while the Big Blacks found a way to cross twice.

“Both pitchers were phenomenal. Casey Frye did a bang-up job for them (Generals). It’s a tough-luck loss that way,” said Blain. “I was a little concerned about the break for the momentum, but I thought we came out and responded better with our bats after a day off. Fortunately for us, all we needed was a couple of runs with the way Abe (Stearns) was pitching. Most of the time, it doesn’t work like that.”

Stearns was sharp, worked quick, and pitched pretty much spot on.

Despite two walks and two hit batsmen, he only allowed two hits — an Aaron Blackwell single to right in the fourth and an Evan Clay single to left in the seventh.

Stearns struck out three, retired the Generals 1-2-3 in the opening inning, saw the minimum three in the sixth and last, and faced four Generals apiece in the second thru fifth frames.

“It (suspended game) didn’t slow Abe Stearns down at all. He was rolling yesterday (Tuesday) and he picked up where he left off today. When you have a pitcher rolling like he was, and then you have an all-night break, you’re anxious to see how he responds to that. But Abe didn’t miss a beat. He did a great job filling up the strike zone,” said Blain. “We gave up four free bags — two walks and two men hit by pitches. But nothing hurt us. Abe really responded well, he made his pitches and located the ball in and out very well and hit the outside corner just like we have been working on. And his breaking ball and change-up kept them off-balance.”

And, when Winfield did get runners aboard, Stearns stranded them with a stellar defense behind him.

Stearns helped himself with back-to-back defensive assists in the second, while third baseman Derek King had two assists and two putouts in the third — and turned a 5-3 double play in the fifth.

In the sixth, center-fielder Chris Lush prevented a leadoff hit with a diving catch, then catcher Justice Chapman teamed with second baseman Tristan Austin to throw out a General stealing.

In the seventh, as Clay conked a two-out single to left, newly-inserted left-fielder Garrett Litchfield relayed to Austin to tag Clay out — and even left him face down in the dirt.

“Our defense was sensational. We made plays all over — infield and outfield,” said Blain. “Justice (Chapman) did a great job behind the plate. He’s looking real sharp back there right when we need him to be. We preach to our outfielders all the time to come and get the baseball and attack it. But when you have a guy like Abe throwing like that, it gives the guys momentum behind him and makes them want to back him up.”

The Generals left one runner on base in every inning except the first, fourth and final.

Noah Short led off with a walk in the second, but was retired as the result of a 1-6 fielder’s choice — combined with the other defensive assist from Stearns.

Sam Estel was hit by a pitch in the third, but was caught in a rundown between second and third that was officially scored as a 5-4-5 fielder’s choice off the bat of Frye.

Clay reached on a leadoff error in the fifth, followed by a walk to Sam Ingram, but Estel grounded into the aforementioned 5-3 double play.

Tate Hancock was then hit by a pitch in the sixth, but was quickly caught stealing to end the inning.

That set up the Big Blacks boosting the lead to 2-0, as Kaleb Beckner led off with a single — followed by a one-out single by James Littlepage and an intentional walk to Chapman.

With the bases loaded, Frye induced Cody Sockwell into a 6-0 fielder’s choice, but Garrett Litchfield — pinch running for Beckner — scored on the play.

Frye — in also going the distance — retired the Big Blacks 1-2-3 in the second, third, fifth and sixth stanzas, while initially allowing a one-out single to Beckner in the first.

He too struck out three, but Point pushed across the first run in the fourth.

Lush laced a leadoff triple to the gap in right, then scored two batters later on a well-placed sacrifice bunt by Matt Richardson.

Blain knew that runs against Frye would be harder to come by than purchasing plutonium in a corner drug store.

“I knew runs were going to be at a premium with the way Casey Frye was throwing the ball,” said the coach. “Just getting Chris Lush with the leadoff triple, there was no doubt in my mind we were going to run the safety squeeze to get him in. And Matt (Richardson) placed the bunt perfectly down the first-base line to get the run home. When you have a pitcher (Frye) throwing like that, you have to try and manufacture runs any way you can. Same thing how we got the run in the seventh. Kaleb Beckner did a great job of lining the pitch out to the right side to get on base. That run eventually came around to score, with Cody Sockwell fighting and battling in that last at-bat. You’ve got to make sure you put the ball in play right there. Cody did a good job of getting the ball through the infield and we got another run in.”

With that, Point Pleasant — despite being the visiting squad on the scoreboard — put itself in perfect position to win the series on Thursday.

“We’ll see if we can’t just take Game 2 and end it (series). Being the home team, we put ourselves in a really good position right now,” said Blain.

Austin was expected to be the Big Blacks’ Game 2 starter.

A third and decisive tilt, if needed, will be played today.

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106

Point Pleasant second baseman Tristan Austin catches the throw to apply the tag on Winfield’s Tate Hancock during Wednesday’s Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 baseball tournament game at Point Pleasant High School.
http://mydailysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_5.13-PPHS-Austin.jpgPoint Pleasant second baseman Tristan Austin catches the throw to apply the tag on Winfield’s Tate Hancock during Wednesday’s Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 baseball tournament game at Point Pleasant High School. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs

pboggs@civitasmedia.com

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