WEST PORTSMOUTH — Before Thursday evening’s contest, it was safe to say that two-way standout Cole Dyer was on a hot streak.
After all, Wheelersburg’s senior third baseman/pitcher had accumulated six home runs over the Pirates’ first six baseball games heading into tonight — including a 2-for-3 effort with a three-run homer, four RBI total, a walk, and three runs scored in addition to putting in six innings of work on the bump against Minford in a 9-6 Wheelersburg victory the night before.
However, Dyer’s performance against West, even by Wheelersburg standards, was exceptional.
In what proved to be an offensive explosion to end all explosions, Dyer hit not one, but two three-run homers — off of two different pitchers — in one inning for his seventh and eighth home runs of the season in just seven official games.
His six RBI in the opening frame of action allowed Wheelersburg to jump out to a 10-0 advantage after one frame of play, and his 4-for-4 day at the plate with four runs scored allowed the Pirates to ultimately claim a 16-7 victory over the West Senators’ baseball program in a wild affair where both units combined for 30 hits over the course of the evening during an SOC II bout that was played in West Portsmouth.
For Michael Estep, the weather that was present in Thursday evening’s bout simply provided a perfect recipe for opportunistic hitters to capitalize.
“You can’t ever forecast (what happened tonight) in baseball,” Estep said. “When you have wind gusts that are 45 to 50 miles per hour, and the flag is straight out, along with not having rain for several days now, which led to a more firmed up field, that leads to a quick infield, which we saw during infield practice. So we knew that if we could hit some top-half balls, it was going to be challenging for a defense, of any caliber, to field.”
As for Chris Rapp, his Senators simply couldn’t slow down what proved to be an impressive Wheelersburg attack, as the Pirates finished with a total of 19 hits on the evening alone.
“Wheelersburg hit the baseball,” Rapp said. “What can you say? You coach long enough that you’re in those situations, and you feel helpless. Wherever we threw, they found a way to make something good happen out of it. Our boys deserve credit. We let down a bit in the first couple of innings, but we battled back, and I was pleased with that.”
After a leadoff single from Trey Carter back up the middle and a walk by Jalen Miller to start things off, Dyer wasted no time getting the ball rolling as the power hitter stepped up to the plate and hammered a three-run blast that landed well over the center field fence to put Wheelersburg up by a 3-0 tally.
Then, after a Connor Mullins single, an RBI double by Athan Temponeras that scored Mullins, and two free passes that ultimately led to back-to-back RBI singles by Carter and Miller — the former of which was a two-RBI base knock — that pushed the score to a 7-0 margin, Dyer stepped up to the plate, and with Cade McNeil on the mound in place of starting hand Marty Knittel, cranked a second three-run homer over the left field fence in the same frame. The well-tagged baseball, which completely cleared a white SUV parked just beyond the outfield fence, put the Pirates up by a 10-0 tally after an inning of work.
“Cole’s worked hard,” Estep said. “He’s been a baseball kid all the way up through, and has been all about eating, drinking, and breathing the game for the better part of his young career. It’s what you want out of a senior. The baseball gods would usually say otherwise about somebody keeping up such a strong pace, but I know that Cole will come in, have a good attitude each day about it, and put the time in to get better. His approach is really good right now. It’s not like he’s hitting a bunch of lazy fly balls. The balls that he’s hitting, even on a day with little to no wind, would be doubles. You just want to try to bottle the hot streak up and keep it rolling as a hitter as much as you can when the ball’s looking big. I’m really happy for him as a senior coming up and playing well for his program.”
However, it wasn’t just Dyer who was coming up big at the dish — it was the entire team, from top to bottom.
That was especially evident in the third inning, when Wheelersburg obtained four consecutive RBI base knocks from Mullins, Temponeras, Jarrett Stamper, and Jaydren Guthrie to push the lead to 14-0 as Carter, Dyer, Mullins and Temponeras all came around to score to push the gap to a 14-0 advantage after three innings of play.
On many of those hits, the lead runner was able to advance from first to third as the Pirates took their aggressive approach at the plate onto the basepaths. Carter (3-for-4, two RBI, three runs scored), Mullins (3-for-5, RBI, two runs scored), Temponeras (2-for-5, double, two RBI, two runs scored), and Guthrie (3-for-5, walk, stolen base, two RBI, run scored) all put together multiple hits for the contest to join Dyer in the multi-hit parade.
“With the fast outfield, plus the wind, in mind, we talked before the game that whether we hit a ball on the ground, a line drive, or one up in the air, that we have to be attacking coming around first base,” Estep said. “I liked the aggressiveness that we ran the bases with. On a few of those occasions, guys are running on their own, to be honest. I give them the freedom to be able to do that, and say, ‘Hey, if this is a one-look-and-go-guy, then take advantage of it and be a ballplayer in those situations.’ We’re trying to free our guys up to play the game and take advantage of those opportunities. We just have to make sure that we’re using the right baseball smarts in order to go out and be efficient in those moments.”
To West’s credit, however, the Senators fought back.
After a leadoff single from Cade Powell and a double to left center by Cade McNeil put runners on second and third with nobody out, Trevor Staggs’ single scored Powell, while two Wheelersburg errors allowed McNeil and Staggs to come across as the Senators scored three in the fourth.
“We didn’t lay down,” Rapp said. “We hit the ball up and down the order late, and we got some key hits at that.”
Then after a strong play by Drew Cassidy to rob Guthrie of a base hit in the top of the fifth frame, Dylan Bradford started a major two out rally with his RBI single to left field, then came home himself on a passed ball that allowed West to prevent the mercy rule and close the gap to a 14-5 count after five innings of play.
That preceded another two-run frame by the Senators in the sixth inning, where Cassidy’s and Knittel’s singles, along with a walk to Bradford, allowed Staggs to drive in a run with a single to left field. A bobbled ball on the exchange in the outfield ultimately allowed Cassidy and Knittel to score on the play as West clawed back to within 14-7 after six complete. Staggs Staggs (3-for-4, two RBI, run scored) and Garrett Hurd (2-for-5) led a very solid 11-hit outing for the Senators.
“There were plays that were made there,” Rapp said. “Drew Cassidy dove for a ball out in the outfield trying to make a play, and when you’re down like that and still trying to make plays, that deserves a tip of the cap. We continued to put hits together and score runs there late. They could’ve packed it in and left, but they didn’t. They wanted to stay, and fight on they did.”
In the top of the seventh, however, Wheelersburg wasted no time closing the deal.
After a leadoff single from Dyer and a walk by Carmichael, Mullins and Guthrie put the finishing touches on the affair as RBI singles from the pair set the final score, with Guthrie coming on in place of starting hand Matt Marshall en route to pitching a 1-2-3 seventh frame.
With the victory, Wheelersburg moved to 5-2 overall and 5-0 in the SOC II with the victory. A rematch with Minford awaits on Friday at Minford and is immediately followed by a home doubleheader against Hillsboro on Saturday.
“There’s no rest, and that’s OK — it is what it is,” Estep said. “It’s the SOC II, a conference that’s full of teams who can compete for the crown. If you want to be one of those teams, you have to give yourself an opportunity to win on somebody else’s home field. That’s the only way it gets done, so you have to be mentally and physically tough enough to grind through those moments. It’s going to be a tough environment to go and play in, but these guys are chomping at the bit to have another shot at playing some good baseball.”
As for West, the same rules apply, especially with a matchup at Valley looming.
“Baseball’s a game where you have to have amnesia,” Rapp said. “We’ve got to forget about today, because tomorrow’s an entirely new day. Yesterday, we played great against Valley, but we have to put that together tomorrow. If we go in with the mindset of, ‘Well, we beat them once, we’re not going to have a problem,’ we’re going to be in trouble, because Valley is Valley. They have always been great at hitting the baseball, and when you play out there, much like at the remaining facilities in our conference, it’s a different atmosphere.”