CHILLICOTHE —In a Scioto County baseball two-step on Saturday, the two-spots by the Portsmouth Trojans topped those of the Wheelersburg Pirates —at almost every turn.
That’s because, as Wheelersburg would score two runs apiece in the third, fourth and sixth innings —Portsmouth plated immediately an equal two runs in the same frames of their own.
As a result, and spearheaded by a three-run second stanza on the aid of only one hit and the only Pirate error, the Trojans took advantage and never trailed —ultimately defeating Wheelersburg 10-6 in the Prep Baseball Report Classic inside a sunsplashed VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe.
The non-league win was a needed bounce back for the Trojans, which were blanked 16-0 by Ohio Valley Conference leader and visiting Fairland the day before.
Wheelersburg, which is tied for the lead atop the Southern Ohio Conference Division II, was also in need of a bounce back —having lost a league game at Minford for Friday 10-5.
But, bolstered by 14 hits —and unfortunately for the Pirates starting pitcher Kolton Salyers hitting three batters — Portsmouth provided the run support for senior left-handed pitcher Vinnie Lonardo, who threw a hefty 125 total pitches and worked his way well into the sixth inning.
With Wheelersburg taking advantage of three Lonardo hit batsmen, and two Trojan errors on an infield hit by Lane Hutchinson, the Pirates scored two unearned runs —after two Lonardo strikeouts —to get within 8-6.
But freshman Trevin Brooks replaced a spent Lonardo with Pirates on the corners, and promptly recorded a strikeout to end that Wheelersburg threat.
The Trojans tacked two runs on again in the bottom of the sixth on three hits, and with Brooks back out for the seventh —Wheelersburg went down 1-2-3, with a pair of flyouts followed by another Brooks strikeout.
The Trojan triumph raised their record to 7-2, while the Pirates slipped to 8-3.
As Aaron Duncan — the PHS head coach — commented on afterward, each new day of baseball brings about an entirely new game.
For the Trojans, it brought about a different approach, a different mindset —and most importantly for them, an entirely different outcome.
“Last night (Friday versus Fairland), we played a baseball game that looked like a football game with good defense (16-0 score). So I challenged the kids after the game that tomorrow (Saturday) was a new day, come back with the right attitude and battle pitch by pitch every pitch. That’s exactly what our kids did,” said Duncan. “Whenever Wheelersburg would get two runs, we were able to keep that cushion.”
Of their 14 hits, the Trojans tallied five doubles —one apiece by Zach Roth (second), Jacob Roth (fourth), Tyler Duncan (fourth), Lonardo (fifth) and Amari Harmon (sixth).
There were also four regular singles and four infield singles, as Portsmouth scored at least one run in its final six at-bats — and sent at least five batters to the plate over that same span.
J.T. Williams went 3-for-4 with all three hits in the infield, while Lonardo helped his cause by going 3-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in.
Zach Roth, the designated hitter, got the ball rolling in the second —driving in hit batsmen Harmon and Lonardo with a one-out double, as the Pirates’ only error was made in the outfield.
Roth took third, nine-hole hitter Nathaniel Berry bunted for a sacrifice and scored Roth —and the Trojans took the early and pace-setting 3-0 lead.
“When we put the ball in play like we did today, we’re fast, and because we have speed, good things happen,” raved Coach Duncan. “We just haven’t done that with runners in scoring position in the two losses that we have (Ironton 8-1 on April 10 and Fairland 16-0 on April 14). I would like to think that’s our best version of hitting the ball and putting it in play and good things happening. Fourteen hits, we pounded the ball and we got the sacrifice bunts down that we needed. Playing small ball and running the bases and bunting, that helped our cause there too.”
Wheelersburg was able to touch Lonardo for six hits and five walks —before his sixth-inning struggles of three hit batsmen following two strikeouts.
But Lonardo escaped jams all afternoon, allowing only two earned runs —as the Trojans did commit four errors.
After a leadoff walk to begin the game, Lonardo came right back with a strikeout looking —before inducing Jake Darling into hitting into a 4-6-3 double play.
Lonardo left two Pirates aboard in the second, before three walks and the first Trojan error resulted in a bases-loaded situation in the third.
The Pirates did slice the deficit to 3-2, but Lonardo got Owen Young to ground out right back to him to end the inning.
Finally, there were Pirates on the corners in the aforementioned sixth —but once again, Portsmouth limited the defensive damage to two Wheelersburg runs.
Up until that point, Lonardo —off an eight-day pitching break —picked up steam as the game went along, retiring eight of nine in innings four thru six, including five in a row for strikeouts.
Lonardo, through his five and two-thirds of work, whiffed eight Pirates —and faced 31 overall.
“Vinnie had a full week off, and he opted out of the league game last night with Fairland, for he wanted this one today. Vinnie went out and pitched his guts out,” said Duncan. “Outside of our four errors, I thought Vinnie was pitching really well, and some errors make that score look a lot closer than it may have been. I felt like Vinnie, since he hadn’t pitched in eight days, was just getting loose in about the fourth inning. He is the type of the kid who has a rubber arm, but he hit three batters in the sixth, so we stopped him there and he exceeded his pitch count. It was right at 125. That’s the cutoff. Then Trevin Brooks goes in and gets four outs in four batters and closes the door.”
Conversely for the Pirates, which threw four pitchers and not their ace in junior Caden Conn, their two top-half runs all ended up exchanged —for three Trojan two-spots in the bottom halves.
Portsmouth held leads of 5-2, 7-4, and ultimately 10-6 —after the Pirates got as close as 3-2, 5-4 and finally 8-6.
The Trojans took an initial four-run lead at 8-4 in the fifth —when Lonardo doubled to right center, sophomore Nik Copley courtesy ran for him, and Zach Roth singled to right for his second hit his third RBI.
Duncan also had two hits —as Jacob Roth doubled in the fourth ahead of him, and he doubled Roth home.
Reade Pendleton plated Duncan, the third and final Trojan hit by Salyers, for an RBI-single in the third —as Harmon was hit by a pitch as well.
Brooks also singled, off his eventual Pirate counterpart Hutchinson —who paced the Pirates with three hits and two runs batted in.
Salyers and Young singled in the second, and Conn singled with an error in the outfield in the fourth.
Aside from the four errors, Portsmouth played well in all phases against a good Wheelersburg band —making the most of its new day of baseball.
“Our kids needed this for their psyche. We lost 16-0 to a good Fairland team. It was 3-0 going into the fourth inning, but the wheels fell off on us after that. So bouncing back today and beating a good team is going to help the kids with that six-inch space between their ears going forward,” said Coach Duncan.
* * *
Wheelersburg 002 202 0 — 6 6 1
Portsmouth 032 212 —10 14 4
WHS: Kolton Salyers 2+IP, 5R, 4ER, 3HB, 0BB, 4H, 1WP, 0K, 13BF; Owen Young 1 2/3 IP, 2R, 2ER, 1HB, 0BB, 4H, 0WP, 2K, 9BF; Lane Hutchinson 2IP, 3R, 3ER, 0HB, 0BB, 6H, 0WP, 0K, 12BF; Creed Warren 1/3 IP, 0R, 0ER, 0HB, 0BB, 0H, 0WP, 1K, 1BF
PHS: Vinnie Lonardo 5 2/3IP, 6R, 2ER, 3HB, 5BB, 6H, 3WP, 8K, 31BF; Trevin Brooks 1 1/3 IP, 0R, 0ER, 0HB, 0BB, 0H, 0WP, 2K, 4BF
W — Vinnie Lonardo; L — Kolton Salyers