Winning conference affairs on the road is always a huge deal — especially when the winning party consists of a young group that is still growing up.
On Wednesday evening, the West Senators, behind a five-run fourth inning and effective pitching from Dylan Bradford and Todd Williams, were able to do exactly that as Chris Rapp’s group used the crooked frame to take home a 6-5 victory over the South Webster Jeeps in a highly competitive SOC II affair between both squads in South Webster on Wednesday evening.
For Chris Rapp, the victory was especially pleasing considering how the Senators went about their business.
“To win on the road at South Webster, and to do it in the fashion that we did, is excellent,” Rapp said. “It’s a good win for us. It’s a nice win to go home with and enjoy on the bus ride back. I told our boys, ‘You’ve got to find a way to win.’ We found a way to win (on Wednesday). We were able to put the bunts down and make things happen.”
On the other side of the coin, South Webster’s Ryan McClintic said that errors in the field were the key detriment in the 6-5 loss. At the same time, however, McClintic believes that his talented and experienced group will recover.
“We put ourselves in a hole early in the game,” McClintic said. “When you do that, it makes it very difficult to win a baseball game, especially when (Dylan Bradford and Todd Williams) are throwing strikes on the mound and doing a good job. When you commit errors and the types of mistakes that we made (on Wednesday), it’s going to be hard to come out of a ballgame with a victory in the SOC II. However, I’m confident in my guys. They stick together regardless of the outcome, and that’s what I love about this group.”
From the opening half-inning, both teams were able to push runners across the plate, with West striking first to begin the contest. Marty Knittel drew a walk with one out in the top of the first inning, and a Garrett Hurd single to left field, followed by a RBI single to left by Cade McNeil, allowed the Senators to strike with the game’s opening salvo as West took a 1-0 lead.
South Webster, however, averted further damage as Zimmerman worked out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Cade Powell to groundout to Jacob Ruth at second base, and, in the second frame, came back with its own counterpunch.
Behind a leadoff walk that was drawn by Trevor Coriell and a 1-3 sacrifice by Dallas Copas that moved Coriell over to second, the Jeeps were able to capitalize as a wild pitch by Bradford, a walk to Zach Barnett, a second wild pitch, and an error on the throw allowed Coriell to score.
Following another drawn walk, this time by Matthew Shonkwiler, a pair wild pitches, along with an error that went out of play, allowed Barnett to score. That gave South Webster a 2-1 lead after two innings of play despite the fact that the Jeeps hadn’t even obtained a hit yet.
That fact, however, didn’t last much longer. In the bottom of the third frame, Zimmerman’s single to left, along with a stolen base by the senior, allowed fellow classmate Bradley Gee to single home the three-hole hitter and dual-sport athlete with his single to right field, which gave the Jeeps a 3-1 lead after three innings of play.
However, that margin changed completely in the fourth inning.
After Bradford and Powell reached on errors, L.T. Maynard launched a Zimmerman baseball to right field, which scored the aforementioned duo as Maynard advanced to second on the errant throw home. Two additional errors allowed Maynard to score and a sacrifice, along with a hit batter, allowed Garrett Hurd to come up with the biggest hit of the inning as his double to left field rolled past Blake Fulk, which scored Knittel and Tre’ Patrick as West turned a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 advantage.
“We changed the lineup around,” Rapp said. “There’s no shame in where you bat. I looked at the lineup today before I submitted it, and I thought to myself, ‘This is an effective lineup, as long as they understand that every spot in that lineup has a role.’ From one-through-nine tonight, we were effective tonight, and that’s what it takes, for everybody to understand their roles and do their jobs. To be able to come back (from the 3-1 deficit) and make things happen, that says a lot for them.”They’re growing and are starting to mature.”
The five-run third also ended Zimmerman’s start in premature fashion, as the senior was only able to go three and a third innings on the hill. Of the six runs that West scored on the evening, only two were of the earned variety.
“We’ve been really happy with our pitching this year,” McClintic said. “The guys on the mound are throwing strikes, and hitting-wise, we’re starting to hit the ball, which is good. We’re just not helping them in the field. We’re just not making routine plays right now. We’re thinking too much out there.”
After striking out the fourth inning’s leadoff batter in Matthew Shonkwiler, Bradford was also taken out after three and a third innings for Williams, who had proven himself in long relief in the past.
“We were able to bring Todd in during a good situation,” Rapp said. “We had the one out, Dylan was at his pitch limit and was where we needed him to be as far as using him later in the week was concerned, and it was a spot in the order where we were able to make an effective pitching change that would leave Todd in a good spot to come in.”
But in the sixth, Williams ran into a bit of trouble. After an infield error, a single past Garrett Hurd at shortstop by Alek Blevins, followed by another base knock to left by Zimmerman two batters later, allowed Shonkwiler to score.
Then, another two-out hit by Trevor Coriell, who pounded a ball up the middle, allowed Blevins to come around and score as South Webster cut the gap to a 6-5 margin.
However, in thinking that the well-hit baseball would be relayed ahead of him to third, Zimmerman made a wide turn on the second base bag. Instead, Patrick made an alert play by throwing the ball toward second base, which allowed Knittel to pick Zimmerman off and keep the advantage in the Senators’ favor.
“It was just too little, too late for us,” McClintic said. “I just wish that we could’ve executed in the early innings like we did later in the ballgame.”
Still, Williams had to fend off one final South Webster challenge.
After Bradley Gee accumulated a leadoff single, an error by Dallas Copas allowed the Jeeps to threaten again with runners on first and second and nobody out.
However, three excellent IQ plays — Williams’ putout of an attempted bunt sacrifice by Jacob Wright that nabbed the lead runner, Gee, at third, along with Maynard’s bullet that retired Matthew Shonkwiler and another putout by Williams on a 1-3 comebacker by Jacob Ruth — allowed West to overcome the adversity and walk away with the victory.”
“When you have runners on second and third, and the No. 9 hitter is at the plate with the No. 1 hitter on deck, and you come out of it with a groundball to the pitcher, that says a lot about Todd,” Rapp said. “The whole team just did their jobs tonight.”
With Wednesday’s contest between the two squads in the books, the pair will look to do battle again on Friday in the rematch in West Portsmouth — where both coaches expect nothing less than a battle. South Webster will first play Minford on Thursday evening in Minford before the rematch occurs.
“South Webster’s a very good baseball team,” Rapp said. “We have to come back and play baseball on Friday. We can’t lose our focus. As a young group, we have a tendency, with being young, where we’re good for about four or five innings, then we lose our focus for an inning. Some of our older players, which are juniors, along with a few seniors, are going to have to keep them focused. I told our upperclassmen, ‘Keep them focused. It’s not a thing where you have to rah, rah, scream and holler.’ They just need to sit beside them and say, ‘You’ve got to stay focused. This is a big inning coming up. This is a big at-bat coming up. Stay within yourself.’”
“Anytime that we play anybody in the league, it’s a big game,” McClintic said. “If you don’t come out, play defense, and get timely hits, you’re not going to win. We’ve got two more league games this week (against Minford and West), and a doubleheader on Saturday, so we’ve got time to turn it around here in this short window, and I feel confident that we’re going to be playing better. I’m looking forward to going to (West) and getting another chance to play these guys. The opportunities that we let slip through our fingers are definitely going to be fresh in our memory.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930