WHEELERSBURG – Hitting, pitching and defense are the three phases of baseball. The Wheelersburg used a little bit of each in the Pirates’ 4-1 victory over the Valley Indians Monday evening in Wheelersburg.
“One time, you come out and swing the bats a little bit,” Wheelersburg head coach Michael Estep said. “One day, you come out and need your pitcher to be on top of his game. And sometimes, you need your defense to play. Today we just needed a combination (of all three).”
Wheelersburg had to execute some major damage control in the top of the first inning. After having the bases loaded with one out, it was Valley who struck with the opening salvo as Cayton Ruby picked up a RBI on a fielder’s choice that scored Dakota Bowling. Bowling’s run, however, proved to be the only one that the Indians would be able to get as the Pirates’ Cole Darnell was able to work his way out of trouble.
Wheelersburg played some small ball in their half of the first inning when Brandon Denney drew a leadoff walk. A wild pitch and a pair of groundouts were able to score Denney and give Xander Carmichael his first RBI of the contest.
The Pirates took the lead for good in the third inning when Trey Carter singled in Cam Howard, who had reached by being hit with a pitch. Howard stole second and advanced when the catcher’s throw to attempt to cut Howard down at second skirted past the Valley infielders and into center field.
Wheelersburg scored its last run on a Carmichael solo blast to left field in the fifth inning. Carmichael finished 1-for-3 on the night with two RBI and the aforementioned homer — his second in as many games.
The win moves Wheelersburg to 5-1 on the year and 3-0 in the SOC II. Valley falls to 2-7 on the year and 1-3 in the SOC II with the loss.
On the hill, Kaleb Coleman picked up the win, after coming on in relief of Darnell. The latter threw two innings of one run, hitless baseball, walking two and striking out two. Coleman, who is widely regarded as the team’s ace, only allowed three hits over the remaining five innings of play. Coleman walked a batter and recorded six strikeouts.
Tanner Cunningham, who has proven himself as one of many sophomore standouts to watch in the area, went six innings, put together an impressive pitching performance in his own right. Cunningham tallied up a complete game while giving up just three earned runs on four hits. The sophomore struck out three and walked one to cap off his tremendous efforts on the hill.
“Tanner (Cunningham) is a great young pitcher,” Valley head coach Nolan Crabtree said. “He’s only a sophomore. He’s a good one now and he’s going to get even better.”
Wheelersburg travels to Waverly Tuesday and Valley will travel to face Waverly on Wednesday.