Coming up large in crucial situations — especially with two outs in an inning — are a key component in a good team, regardless of the sport that is played.
With Portsmouth trailing by a 2-1 tally and needing a spark with a bout of severe weather less than an hour away, it was a senior who helped kickstart a crucial inning that helped put the Trojans in front to stay.
Aided by a strong wind that seemed to come out of nowhere, Ryan Williams’ shot to the left center field track with two outs in the third inning allowed Portsmouth to swing the momentum.
The Trojans then scored five more runs in varying ways, including three off of base hits from Vincent Schwamberger and Parker Johnson that concluded the frame, to cap off a six-run third inning that put Portsmouth ahead to stay in an 8-6 victory over Chesapeake on Wednesday evening in six rain-shortened innings to move to 2-1 in Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) play.
For Matt Roy, it was a well-deserved and well-earned victory — simply because the Trojans battled for it.
“They battled,” Roy said. “That’s what we’ve told them all year long: compete. If you compete, there’s always a chance that you’re going to win.”
And that’s exactly what Portsmouth did all game long.
After an error allowed Chesapeake’s Josh Hansen to come around and give the Panthers a 1-0 margin, the Trojans wasted no time in nullifying the damage done.
With one out in the bottom half of the first frame, Portsmouth’s Ty Oliver singled up the middle and then proceeded to steal second.
Then, after a Mikey Potts single put runners at the corners for the Trojans, Portsmouth looked to be in trouble as Potts was caught in a rundown after the catcher was seen leaning off of first base.
But while Chesapeake pitcher Casey McComas stepped off of the rubber in an attempt to put Potts in a difficult position, Oliver knew that by sprinting toward home with two out, there was nothing to lose. By making the smart decision to do so, the senior forced McComas to rethink, and that split-second decision was the difference as Oliver slid under Dalton Nida’s tag at home plate to tie the score after an inning of play.
After both teams went down in order in the second frame, Chesapeake retook the lead in the third frame as an error, back-to-back singles by Bryce DePriest and Evan Burcham, a wild pitch, and another error allowed the Panthers to grab a one-run lead once again.
However, Portsmouth starting hand Zach Kinney proved to be effective in keeping the Panthers from denting the scoreboard any further.
With runners on second and third, Kinney forced six-hole hitter Austin Browning into an innocent center field flyout to end an inning that could have ended much worse considering the two errors and the wild pitch.
“It seemed like Zach filled the strike zone up,” Roy said. “We told him to just let the defense work. We had some errors out there in the field, but we told him not to worry about it and for him to continue to pitch his game. Chesapeake will come out and swing it, man. They make you play defense. I just told the boys, ‘Throw strikes and field (the ball).”
In the bottom of the third inning, Portsmouth aided Kinney’s efforts with their performances at the plate. With two out, Williams allowed the Trojans to take advantage of an infield error by Chesapeake earlier in the inning by drilling the aforementioned double to left.
With the wind serving as an assist, the ball didn’t come down until it landed near the track, and Blake Wedebrook motored all the way around from first base as Portsmouth tied the score again at two apiece.
However, the Trojans were far from done.
After an error on an infield grounder allowed Williams to advance to third, Potts followed by advancing to second on a passed ball, with Bryce Wallace drawing a walk later in the at-bat. Schwamberger then followed by lining a shot to right field to score Williams and give Portsmouth the lead, and Potts followed Williams by scoring on the same play after DePriest misfired on the relay throw to third base.
With Schwamberger on second base because of the error, Kinney followed by drawing a walk, and both players advanced on another miscommunication on the mound as a passed ball rolled to the backstop. That set the table for Johnson, who capped off the monstrous six-run frame with a hard-hit ball to right center to score both Schwamberger and Johnson and give Portsmouth the lead for good while also chasing McComas from the ballgame.
“We kept telling them, ‘Hey, jump on the first-pitch fastball down the middle,’” Roy said. “‘It’s not their pitch, it’s your pitch. Don’t make it harder than it is.’”
But even with the score set at a 7-2 margin in favor of PHS, the Trojans didn’t obtain the victory without a fight.
With two gone in the fourth inning, McComas used a hard-hit single of his own to score Tyler Eddy, who reached base via a single of his own. After stealing two bases, McComas scored on Hansen’s RBI shot to right field to cut the lead to 7-4.
However, Portsmouth, again, responded with two-out magic.
After a walk and an error put Schwamberger and Zach Basye on base, Eddy — who swapped positions with McComas and moved from second base to the mound — struck out Parker Johnson and Chris Johnson to put the Trojans on the ropes again.
Wedebrook, however, allowed Portsmouth to dance out of trouble as the centerfielder lined another bullet into the outfield, which scored Schwamberger and allowed the Trojans to stretch the lead to an 8-4 margin after five innings of play.
With rain quickly approaching, Chesapeake responded in a quick manner as an error and a DePriest single scored Kelton Jones — who had reached in the same manner — and Hansen to close the gap to 8-6 once again. However, Oliver extinguished the Panthers for good by catching a liner and stepping on second base to turn an unassisted double play, and not long after, lightning set in for good, which gave Portsmouth the 8-6 victory and a 2-1 start to its OVC slate.
“That’s our goal going into every season: to win the OVC,” Roy said. “We want to win the OVC and go to the VA. If we don’t do either of those things, that’s a failure. I’m proud of where we’re at right now. We just have to keep chipping away.”
There will be no breaks for Portsmouth, however, as a very tough South Point squad is scheduled to make the trip to Hatcher Field. A trip to perennial power Wheelersburg is on tap for the following morning.
“South Point beat Gallia Academy, who is very tough,” Roy said. “They’ll come ready to play. They’ve got a new coach in there who will get them ready to go. We’ve got to come out and compete.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7