CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — The Mighty Minford Falcons were flying high Tuesday evening at the V.A. Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio as the Falcons ended the night with a 4-3 win over the Coal Grove Hornets. Minford advances to the district final round Thursday evening in hopes of capturing a district championship.
“I’m very proud of the kids today,” Minford baseball coach Brent Daniels said. “They dug in and battled and just kept making plays on defense.”
It was a battle on the turf at the V.A. Memorial Stadium Tuesday evening in a tight game between the Falcons and the Hornets.
Minford scored first in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Kody Kennedy drove in Jared Alley to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead after four complete innings.
Coal Grove answered in the top of the fifth inning though. The Hornets started the inning with a pair of singles before flying out to third base and center field.
Coal Grove’s Sam Angelo and Cole Gannon sat in scoring position when Daniel Rutherford brought his teammates in with a single to the gap in the outfield. The two run single gave the Hornets a 2-1 lead over Minford as the Falcons took their turn batting in the fifth.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Shaun Mersiel drew a walk, which was followed by an Eli Daniels walk to give Minford runners at first and second. Mersiel would score thanks to an Aaron Alley single that allowed Daniels to then advance to third base.
The Falcons now had runners on the corners with two outs, looking to add more runs in the inning. They got a little help from Coal Grove, as Hornets relief pitcher Rutherford was called for a balk, which scored Daniels from third and sent Aaron Alley to second.
Minford got two runs in the bottom of the fifth to retake the lead in the game, 3-2.
After a quick top of the sixth, Minford was back to the plate trying to increase their lead. They would add one run after Kennedy scored on a passed ball.
With the game headed into the seventh inning, Minford held a two-run lead 4-2.
The score would get close, but not enough for the Hornets in the seventh. Cole Gannon led the inning off with a walk for Coal Grove. He then advanced to third after a wild pick-off attempt. Jake Clark then came up with a huge hit for the Hornets driving in Gannon with a double to make it a one-run game, 4-3.
From there Minford held on to win the game, recording the last two outs by a fly ball to first base and then a routine grounder to the third-baseman.
“They had two outstanding pitchers on the mound today,” Daniels said when talking about Coal Grove’s pitching Tuesday evening. “We stayed in (with them), just picked, picked, picked away.”
Daniels said his team knew if they were patient they would get their chance to win their battles at the plate.
“We knew we could get to him (McKnight),” Daniels said about Coal Grove’s starter. “We saw everything he had in the first couple of innings, so it was just a matter of us getting the ball in play.”
Eric Cook started the contest for Minford and pitched six innings of work. He allowed two runs, both earned, off six hits. The Minford hurler walked three batters in the game while striking out a pair.
“Eric Cook did an outstanding job for us,” Daniels said.
Alex Powell took over in the seventh inning for Minford. In his one inning of work, Powell allowed one run off one hit with two walks.
“Alex came in and closed the door down for us,” Daniels said. “That’s what you expect out of your senior to do, to make some big pitches and close the door.”
Rutherford was the pitcher of record for Coal Grove getting the loss.
“We got the hit when we needed to get the hit,” Daniels said.
Getting timely hits when they were needed helped the Falcons defeat the Hornets. Two Falcons finished with two hits on the night, Aaron Alley and Matthew Gullet.
Alley was 2-for-2 with an RBI in the fifth. He also drew a walk in the fourth. His RBI single helped set up the success of the fifth inning for the Falcons.
Gullets was solid through the whole game. He reached via a single in both the second and fourth innings keeping the Minford momentum going.
Kody Kennedy had a big night for the Falcons as well, going 1-for-3 in the game with an RBI, a score and two stolen bases.
One of the biggest fielding plays came in the top of the fourth inning for Minford. Coal Grove had runners on first and second with two outs when Darren Bloomfield hit a hard ground ball on the right side of the infield.
Minford second-baseman Shaun Mersiel made a sliding grab on the hit ball and was then able to make a throw to first to record the final out of the inning, and potentially saving a run from scoring.
“Shaun made a great diving stop in the gap and was able to get up and get the out,” Daniels said. “We made plays when we needed to make plays. I’m going to credit my defense, because they did an outstanding job.”
Minford will take on their SOC II rival the Valley Indians on Thursday evening at the V.A. Memorial Stadium. The Lucasville-Minford Road rivalry continues in an OHSAA Division III Southeast District Championship game which will have a 6:00 p.m. first pitch, May 19, 2016.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.