Losing games is certainly a tough thing to go through.
However, there can be positives that can be drawn out of a loss — especially when a team comes together to play strong baseball over the final portion of a contest.
After Portsmouth Post 23 obtained a 1-0 lead to start a South Central Ohio League affair against the Chillicothe Post 62 Riverbats behind a strong pair of frames from Drew Lowe, Post 62 immediately turned the entire contest around by plating 12 runs in a two-inning span as a mercy rule stared Post 23 dead in the face.
But after falling behind by the 12-1 tally over the first three and a half innings of play, Portsmouth showed resolve by continuing to fight.
And while Post 23’s efforts ultimately fell short, the result was something that Portsmouth can build on going forward.
Behind a nice four-inning performance on the hill by Jared Morrow, along with five hits from Morrow and Bradley Gee over the final three innings of play, Post 23 was able to finish strong as Portsmouth scored five of the game’s final six runs in a 13-6 loss to Post 62 on Wednesday evening at Branch Rickey Park.
While the loss certainly wasn’t pleasing for Matt Miller, the defeat could serve as a good learning lesson — especially with the Hillsboro Wood Bat Tournament looming.
“After the first three and a half innings there, I was proud of our play from then on,” Miller said. “In the third and fourth innings, however, we didn’t compete. The way that we played in the third and fourth innings isn’t what I believe in and it’s not what I expect out of them. After I quit talking to them, they got together and got things going the right way.”
At the beginning of the contest, however, Post 23’s wheels were rolling in the right direction.
After a three-up, three-down inning from Lowe on the hill, leadoff hitter Garrett Hurd immediately got things rolling with his single to left field, and advanced into scoring position on a one-out single by Lowe back up the middle of the diamond. Even though a 6-4 forceout extinguished Lowe from the basepaths, five-hole hitter Evan Dahm came up large for Post 23 with another single back up the middle to plate the game’s first run.
However, Miller felt that Portsmouth could have added additional runs in the frame, especially when a walk by Gee allowed Post 23 to load the bases with two away in the top half of the first inning. A flyout, however, negated the bases loaded, two-out threat.
“We started off good,” Miller said. “I still wasn’t happy with the fact that we only scored one run in the first. That actually set us behind the eight-ball a little bit there. We had the potential for a big inning, which could’ve changed the complexion of the game. After about two innings, we went through a lull there, and that’s something that you can’t do at this level of competition.”
The lull that Miller discussed came in the third and fourth frames, when Chillicothe Post 62 — who had been held without a hit by Lowe over the first pair of innings — exploded for 13 hits combined in the third and fourth frames while batting around in each inning. A wicked bunt single by Keyan Cottrill, which was hit so hard that the ball ventured its way into the shallow grass just past the infield, along with a two-RBI double to the left center field by Jeremy Brooks and a three-RBI double by Alec Pinkerton, were among the key hits in the explosion.
To Portsmouth’s credit, however, Post 23 didn’t lay down. Back-to-back singles by Gee and Morrow, along with a two-out walk from Garrett Hurd, put Gee and Morrow in scoring position. After Gee came home on a wild pitch, the table was set for Connor Mullins, who ripped a baseball back up the middle of the diamond to score Morrow. Lowe then stepped up to the plate and shot a hard-hit ball of his own to the right center field track, which allowed Hurd and Mullins to cross home plate. The bases-clearing double allowed Post 23 to cut the deficit to a 12-5 advantage, and as a result, avoid the mercy rule.
“In the fourth inning, the guys finally started competing for each other instead of competing for themselves,” Miller said. “They finally got things together, and we started to hit the ball a little bit better. Jared came in and threw an excellent game. He helped keep us in the ballgame. I didn’t feel like Drew threw the ball bad. We just had a couple of errors here and there, and Post 62 hit a few hard on him. But Jared and Brad came back with a couple of hits, and as a result, we were able to create that snowball effect and get things going on the offensive side of the spectrum.”
Behind the efforts of Morrow — who only allowed one run over the final three frames of action in relief of Lowe — Post 23 was able to close the deficit even further as Gee and Morrow, for the second inning in a row, responded with back-to-back singles to lead off the fifth frame. Then, after another single by Billy Book, Jaydren Guthrie launched a well-hit baseball to right field to plate Gee via a sacrifice fly as Portsmouth cut the deficit to a 12-6 margin.
However, the efforts just proved to be too little, too late for Post 23. Despite putting Lowe and Athan Temponeras on base in the sixth inning, and Morrow and Book in the seventh, Portsmouth couldn’t drive any of the four home, and as a result, Post 62 — who added one final run in the seventh — took home a 13-6 victory.
Even though the loss dropped the Post 23 record to 2-5, Miller is hoping that the late surge during Wednesday’s contest will spark Portsmouth as the Hillsboro Wood Bat Tournament commences on Friday.
“It’s been a rough stretch,” Miller said. “We’ve dropped five in a row now, which I’m not happy about. But like I told the boys, we need to take that momentum and spark we had, when we were playing for each other, and take that up there to (the Hillsboro Wood Bat Tournament) and turn things around.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7