WEST PORTSMOUTH — On a perfect evening for baseball, the Wheelersburg Pirates visited their SOC II rival, the Portsmouth West Senators in the first of two games between the two teams. Fueled by an athletic rivalry, and the importance of a conference win, the Senators and Pirates battled through four scoreless and hit-less innings before Wheelersburg would break the stalemate and move on to a 6-1 victory over West.
“For us, it always starts on the mound, and on the defensive side we had a great outing from Chance Holbrook this evening,” Wheelersburg baseball coach Michael Estep said. “He hasn’t pitched the last couple days. He’s been battling a little bit of back tightness and soreness, so we kept him out and brought him back on a warm day today, and he went out and commanded the strike zone well with all three pitches. It’s exactly what we would expect out of a senior.”
Holbrook pitched the entirety of the game Monday evening, going all seven innings, allowing only two hits and surrendering one run, which was earned. The Pirate hurler gave up three walks in the contest, and showed his dominance by striking out 10 West batters.
Despite the loss, West had a spectacular performance on the mound as well.
“Marty Knittel pitched a gem of a game I thought,” West baseball coach Chris Rapp said. “You couldn’t ask for any more from a sophomore.”
Through the first four innings of the game, both Holbrook and Knittel were pitching not only shut-out baseball, but hit-less baseball as well, as neither team would pick up their first hit until the fifth inning.
The Pirates got to Knittel in the fifth inning, starting off with two singles by Kaden Coleman and Xander Carmichael. Wheelersburg would then load the bases after Brandon Denney was hit by a pitch.
Wheelersburg got their first run of the game after Cole Darnell drove in Coleman with a single. Two more runs were driven in by Jordan Howard after his two-RBI single, to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead after the top of the fifth inning.
West answered back with a run of their own in their half of the fifth inning. Austin Opperman started off the inning with a single, and would later score, to cut the Wheelersburg lead to two runs, 3-1.
The Pirates got another run in the sixth inning to negate the West run in the fifth, and reclaimed their three-run lead, 4-1.
As the game went into the seventh, and final, inning, the Senators continued to trail the Pirates. West was unable to rally in the final inning, and overcome the Wheelersburg lead, giving the Pirates the win over the Senators in the first game of the series.
“There were two good pitchers out there today,” Rapp said. “We had some (miscue) moments on defense, but also we had some good plays. L.T. Maynard made a few good plays at third, and Pat Bays made a couple of nice plays at shortstop, as did the Wheelersburg players.”
Estep was happy with how his hitters continued to grind through their at-bats in the first few innings of the game.
“We started to hit some more top-half balls, which is exactly what we wanted to do here with the infield being a little firmer,” Estep said. “Credit to West though, because any ball that was a catch-able ball, for the most part, I thought their infielders, I know they had a couple throwing miscues, but I thought their third baseman, made some nice plays, and their shortstop made some nice plays to keep the score down.”
The Pirates and Senators face-off again Tuesday evening at Wheelersburg, with a 5:00 p.m. first pitch.
After Tuesday’s game, West will take a few days off before hosting the Waverly Tigers on Friday evening.
Wheelersburg will play again on Wednesday participating in a tournament at Greenup County High School.
West – Knittel 1-2 (BB), Opperman 1-3 (R), Bays 0-1 (BB), Patrick 0-1 (BB)
Wheelersburg – Howard 1-3 (2 RBI, HBP), Davis 1-2 (R, 2 BB), Jenkins 1-4, Coleman 2-4 (R, RBI), Carmichael 1-3 (R, BB), Denney 0-2 (R, HBP, BB), Darnell 2-4
W – Holbrook 7.0 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 3 BB, 10 K
L – Knittel 6.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.