PORTSMOUTH — Tyler Duncan did in fact take one smack dab on the leg, but it ended up being the right reward for Deandre Berry’s arm.
That’s because the junior left-hander Berry pitched a four-hit gem, and the senior standout Duncan scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning, as the Portsmouth Trojans topped the visiting and archrival Ironton Fighting Tigers on Wednesday —winning a key Ohio Valley Conference baseball bout by a 4-3 count at Portsmouth High’s Hatcher Field.
That’s correct, as the Trojans — trying to keep pace with OVC leader Fairland for that conference’s top of the totem pole — exacted quite the measure of revenge on the Fighting Tigers, and did so in walkoff fashion.
In a pitchers’ duel between Berry and Ironton’s Chaydan Kerns, it all came down to the bottom of the seventh inning —in a 3-3 tie and the Trojans trying to win.
It actually was a spring heat lightning quick inning, as Kerns conked Duncan on the leg with the first pitch he threw.
Fellow senior Reade Pendleton then drag bunted for a sacrifice, with Duncan advancing to second.
J.T. Williams then grounded to shortstop, but the Fighting Tigers did not make a play on Duncan — and did not appear sure where to go with the ball.
Duncan held his ground and didn’t run, the Fighting Tigers went to third with no play, and freshman Trevin Brooks broke the 3-3 tie with a single to right field —as the throw home was late and wide and allowed Duncan to cross safely.
Duncan’s run sent the Trojans into a wild walkoff celebration, and kept their chances at the OVC championship still intact.
More on that shortly.
In the moment on Wednesday, following an hour and 45 minutes of a good baseball game, PHS head coach Aaron Duncan didn’t want Berry’s best performance to go for naught.
“Deandre said he had this one, but he had 10 pitches left and he was at 115 (pitches), so if it went extra innings, then I was probably going to have to make a switch. So I said let’s win this one for Deandre, and our offense came through with a big hit in the seventh. Kids came up clutch for us,” said the coach.
The coach continued by commenting on the last at-bat —a thing of execution and a fast-moving inning.
“I told Tyler (Duncan) before the at-bat that Deandre pitched a whale of a game, and if we cut out the mistakes in the field…Deandre didn’t give up an earned run. We just needed Tyler on base, he’s a smart baserunner, he’s the guy we want out there in that situation. Reade (Pendleton) gets down a drag bunt which is as good as a sacrifice bunt there, moves Tyler to second. J.T.’s (Williams) groundball goes to short, but Tyler does a smart job of baserunning there and doesn’t run us out of the inning. Then Trevin Brooks comes through with the big hit,” said Coach Duncan. “Our guys competed, we made some mistakes with the glove, but Deandre gave us a chance with the way he pitched, and we hit the ball hard, put it in play and didn’t strike out very much. Which is what we have to do with our team speed.”
In the initial meeting at Ironton, the Trojans fell to the Fighting Tigers 8-1 on April 10 —as errors cost Portsmouth in that affair, as it was a 2-1 ballgame going into Ironton’s at-bat in the sixth.
The Trojans also struck out 14 times that day, and despite five errors resulting in all three Ironton runs being unearned, Portsmouth’s plate approach was decidedly better —only striking out four times with three free passes and eight total hits.
“Only four Ks, and by limiting those from last time, we got on base and tried to run,” said Duncan. “That’s our game.”
With the win, and combined with Thursday’s 10-0 blanking of visiting Coal Grove, the Trojans raised their record to 14-2 —and to 9-2 in the OVC.
Fairland, which owns a 10-1 league record and had Friday’s game at Ironton get rained out, faces visiting Portsmouth on Monday —a game in which the Trojans must win to keep their conference championship hopes alive.
Ironton, on the other hand, fell to 8-4 — and 6-4 in the league.
Prior to Ironton’s unearned run in the sixth, when Brady Moatz walked with one out and Kerns hugged a two-out daring double down the right-field line with Moatz scoring on a passed ball, the first five runs for a 3-2 tally all came in the opening two innings.
For the Trojans in the first, Jacob Roth singled to right and Duncan doubled to center to lead off, as Roth raced home on a squeeze bunt by Pendleton for the 1-0 lead.
In the second, senior Amari Harmon hammered a double to left center — and scored on fellow senior Vinnie Lonardo’s single to center right after.
Two outs and three batters later, Roth singled to left to score Zach Roth —the designated hitter who reached two batters earlier on a 6-4 fielder’s choice.
That made it 3-2, as in Ironton’s second stanza it combined —all with two outs —a Connor Kleinman single, a walk to Kerns, a wild pitch, and three Trojan errors for two unearned runs.
From there, both pitchers settled into a scoreless duel until the sixth —as the only other Ironton hits were an Ian Ginger one-out single in the third and a Braydon Baker two-out single in the fifth.
Berry got the better of Kerns — facing the minimum three in the first, retiring the Fighting Tigers 1-2-3 in the fourth, and seeing four batters apiece in innings three, five and seven.
Berry faced 32 Fighting Tigers, did not walk any, only allowed the four hits and struck out 10 —including two apiece in the first, second and last.
He also stranded six Tiger runners, including runners at third in the third and sixth —and with two Tigers on in the second.
The catcher Brooks combined with Jacob Roth at shortstop to catch Baker stealing, as he led the game off with a walk.
A season-long injury has not allowed Tyler Duncan to pitch, therefore Berry and Lonardo — including Berry twice against Ironton and once against Fairland — have been tasked with facing the top Trojan opposition.
Berry didn’t disappoint at all.
“With Tyler being down, I challenged Deandre to be our number-two starter. Deandre has drawn the three toughest OVC games, and he has pitched well enough to win all three at various times,” said Coach Duncan. “I’m awfully proud of Deandre for stepping up to the challenge and the way he pitched today. He is still 16 years old and continues to mature and he’s taken on that role. I was ready to come get him in the seventh, but he waved me off to finish the game. And he did. He answered the bell.”
Before Berry’s barrage, the lefty Lonardo set Portsmouth up for Wednesday’s tilt —pitching and powering PHS to a 4-1 win at Gallia Academy on Monday.
Combine that with Wednesday’s result, and throw Thursday’s shutout in as well, and the Trojans are right in position —facing Fairland for a possible tie atop the league standings.
Against Ironton, it was Berry’s arm and Duncan’s legs ultimately legging out the crucial victory.
“We had big league games this week, must-win games,” said the coach. “We took care of business this week.”
* * *
Ironton 020 001 0 — 3 4 1
Portsmouth 120 000 1 —4 8 5
IHS: Chaydan Kerns 7IP, 4R, 4ER, 2HB, 1BB, 8H, 2WP, 4K, 32BF
PHS: Deandre Berry 7IP, 3R, 0ER, 0HB, 4BB, 4H, 1WP, 10K, 30BF
W — Deandre Berry; L — Chaydan Kerns
Ironton hitting: Braydon Baker BB, Cole Freeman S, Ian Ginger S, Brody Moatz BB RS, Connor Kleinman S RS, Chaydan Kerns D BB RS, Hunter Freeman RBI, Carson Freeman RBI, Tanner Moore BB
Portsmouth hitting: Jacob Roth 2-4 RBI RS, Tyler Duncan 2-3 D HBP RS SB, Reade Pendleton RBI, Trevin Brooks 1-3 RBI BB, Amari Harmon 1-2 D HBP RS, Vinnie Lonardo 1-3 RBI, Zach Roth RS, Deandre Berry 1-3