CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Sometimes baseball is a game of patience. Sometimes a batter has to wait for several at-bats before they see that one pitch they’ve waited so long for to come up with a big hit for his team. Tuesday’s OHSAA Division III Southeast District Semifinal game between the Valley Indians and the Albany Alexander Warriors was decided on patience.
Eli Harr waited all night for the pitch he saw in the top of the eighth inning he sent deep into the outfield for a triple that scored two runs and ultimately gave Valley an 8-7 victory.
Patience was definitely a virtue for the Valley Indians Tuesday night. The Indians finished with eight runs off just a pair of hits. Valley showed great patience which paid off for the Indians as they drew an unusually high number of walks, 16 in total.
“We were very disciplined at the plate,” Nolan Crabtree, Valley baseball coach said. “We teach hitting strikes and that’s it. We don’t go overly aggressive on stuff up out of the zone we hit strikes. That paid off for us.”
Crabtree said he told his team if they continued to get on base good things would happen for them.
“Sure enough, Eli Harr, who has done it all year for us, knocks one to the wall to win the game,” Crabtree said.
Many times the Indians were given the take sign by Crabtree, as the Warriors pitchers had issues locating their pitches for strikes.
“I was giving 2-0, 3-1 take signs,” Crabtree said. “There was a lot of times we were betting they couldn’t throw three balls in a row over the plate.”
Crabtree acknowledged the take signs helped and hurt the Indians but after it was all over, the 16 walks given up by the Warriors helped lift the Indians to a district semifinal round win and an advancement to the district finals.
Albany Alexander had a great start to the game. After holding Valley scoreless in the first, the Warriors went on to score three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
The Warriors would add another run in the third inning, ending with four runs scored in the first three innings of the game.
Valley peaked in the fourth and eighth innings. The Indians wouldn’t get their first run until the third inning but would score four in the fourth.
In the top of the eighth, after losing a two-run lead in the seventh, Valley scored two runs, which would give the Indians just enough runs to win the game.
Gavin Yazell got the start for Valley, but would be pulled in the third inning. Yazell went two and one-third innings allowing four runs, all earned, off seven hits. Yazell only walked one batter, the least of any pitcher appearing on the night.
Yazell was experiencing some arm fatigue according to Crabtree, which caused the early exit.
Tanner Cunningham came in to relieve Yazell and pitched more like an upperclassmen than a freshman. Cunningham filled in for three and two-thirds innings facing 13 batters. He didn’t allow any runs and only gave up a single hit. The young Indian struck out two batters and walked three.
“His performance was huge,” Crabtree said. “He came in and gave us a huge lift.”
Crabtree went to Bryan Rolfe in the seventh inning. He would pitch the seventh and eighth innings allowing three runs from three hits.
Valley only had two hits on the night despite scoring eight runs. The Valley designated hitter, Jesse Jones, got the Indians their first hit in the fourth inning. He finished with a 1-for-3 performance at the plate scoring twice and drawing a single walk.
Eli Harr had the other hit for Valley, a clutch triple in the eighth inning that scored two runs. He went 1-for-5 for Valley with two RBIs.
Derek Burk and Bryan Rolfe each finished the night drawing four walks, which accounted for half the walks given up by the three Albany Alexander pitchers.
The game between the Warriors and Indians finished in extra innings, going eight full innings. The game went for a total of three hours and seven minutes, beginning at 7:35 p.m. and concluding with the final out at 10:42 p.m.
Valley will play again Thursday evening in Chillicothe at the V.A. Memorial Stadium, when they play the Minford Falcons. The two SOC II rivals will continue their Lucasville-Minford Road rivalry Thursday evening, with the winner claiming a district championship.
“When we saw the draw, when we saw what side of the bracket we were on, we wanted this game,” Crabtree said. “It’s a rivalry in everything we do. Having another chance to play them especially with two games where they out-executed us.
“I feel that’s an even ballgame and whoever ends up throwing more strikes will come away with the win.”
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.