Big Blacks edge Blue Devils, 4-3


By Paul Boggs - pboggs@civitasmedia.com



Point Pleasant second baseman Tristan Austin makes a throw to first base for a fifth-inning out during Monday’s baseball game at Gallia Academy.


Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

CENTENARY, Ohio —On a chilly evening at Gallia Academy High School, it was Point Pleasant’s pitching and defense that stopped the host Blue Devils stone cold.

The Big Blacks didn’t commit an error, and rode the arm of junior pitcher Abe Stearns, as Point Pleasant posted a 4-3 baseball victory on Monday inside a brisk Robert Eastman BallField in Centenary.

Monday’s matchup marked the season opener for Gallia Academy, as Ohio high schools began baseball this season 10 days behind West Virginia.

The Big Blacks are now 5-1, with all six games decided by three runs or less.

Against Gallia Academy, Point Pleasant trailed 1-0 after the opening inning, but scored two unearned runs in the fourth — and tacked on two earned runs in the sixth en route to the win.

The Blue Devils got two earned runs in the sixth, and had runners on first and second, but Stearns induced pitching counterpart Marcus Moore to ground out right back to him to end the inning.

In the seventh stanza, and in repeating what he did in innings two, three, four and five, Stearns retired the Blue Devils 1-2-3.

Stearns struck out four and allowed six hits, and aided his cause with three defensive assists.

Of his 65 pitches, exactly 51 went for strikes.

“Our pitching was outstanding as Abe Stearns came in and set the tone. He did a great job on the mound for us,” said Point Pleasant coach Andrew Blain. “He kept them (Blue Devils) off balance, did a great job of filling up the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters so that we could go ahead with the pitches we wanted to go with.”

PPHS shortstop Cody Sockwell wound up with five assists, as second baseman Tristan Austin added three assists and two putouts.

“Our defense was exceptional again tonight. We’re winning games because of our defense. We didn’t make any errors tonight, we took care of the baseball and made all of our plays,” said Blain. “We kept them off the bases and didn’t give them any extra opportunities. Defense is going to continue to win us games. We’re not going to pound the baseball all over the place, so we have to figure out a way to win.”

Gallia Academy coach Rich Corvin concurred, claiming his squad’s offense “took five innings off.”

The only innings it had runners aboard were the first and sixth, as leadoff hitter Kole Carter was hit by a pitch, and eventually scored on an Anthony Sipple single.

Eric Ward also singled in the inning, but both Sipple and Ward never advanced to second.

With Point Pleasant leading 4-1 in the sixth, the Blue Devils dialed up four consecutive two-out singles — one apiece by Carter, Matt Bailey, Sipple and Ward.

Ward singled in Carter and Bailey, but Stearns stopped the rally when he got Moore out with the grounder back to the mound.

Moore pitched well enough to win, allowing seven hits and two walks over his six innings of work, which included seven strikeouts.

“I thought Marcus did a nice job on the mound for us. This early in the year and cold, I think he was up to around 85 pitches,” said Corvin. “We were proud of that.”

Moore escaped jams in the opening two innings, as Sockwell and Matt Richardson singled in the first — with Stearns walking and Austin singling in the second.

After a 1-2-3 third, part of six straight retired by Moore, Point Pleasant pushed two runs across thanks to three Gallia Academy errors.

The Big Blacks’ James Littlepage reached on the first error as Stearns singled.

With two outs, Kaleb Beckner and Garrett Litchfield reached on back-to-back errors, as Littlepage and Stearns scored on Litchfield’s at-bat.

“When you have runners in scoring position, you need to put the baseball in play. We can’t go down swinging or looking, we have to make them make plays. When you do that consistently, you’re probably going to get some errors here and there,” said Blain. “We took advantage of their mistakes simply because we did a good job of putting the ball in play.”

Corvin, conversely, said they were “routine plays” his senior-laden infield needed to make.

“You don’t have to look great, but you do have to make the routine out,” he said. “Our big thing is 21 outs. Don’t give them any more than 21 outs. If we make that play (two-out two-run error in fourth), it’s a different ballgame from that point on.”

In the sixth, Stearns singled and Austin doubled, setting up an RBI-single by Beckner that scored Stearns.

With one out, Chris Lush flied out to center, driving in Austin on the sacrifice fly for the 4-1 lead.

Derek King, in the fifth inning, was the only other baserunner allowed by Moore on a leadoff walk.

Jeremy Brumfield relieved Moore in the seventh, allowing a leadoff single to Sockwell, before Littlepage reached on the fourth and final Blue Devil error.

Corvin conceded concern about his Blue Devils’ debut against a club that was already playing its sixth game.

“I was concerned about our lack of reps and game situations versus them playing six games already,” he said. “But it is what it is.”

Gallia Academy returned home, and returned to non-league action, on Tuesday by hosting undefeated River Valley (3-0).

The Blue Devils travel to Meigs for another non-league encounter today (5 p.m.)

Point Pleasant was at Winfield on Tuesday night, and hosts Ripley tonight at 7 p.m.

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

Point Pleasant second baseman Tristan Austin makes a throw to first base for a fifth-inning out during Monday’s baseball game at Gallia Academy.
http://mydailyregister.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_3-28-PP-Austin.jpgPoint Pleasant second baseman Tristan Austin makes a throw to first base for a fifth-inning out during Monday’s baseball game at Gallia Academy. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs

pboggs@civitasmedia.com

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