Over the last 15 years, there’s no question that the Wheelersburg Pirates’ baseball program has been the program to beat in the SOC II.
So when an opponent is able to step up to the plate and prove their metal against the perennial powerhouse that is Wheelersburg, that program certainly deserves a kudos.
On Wednesday evening, the Valley Indians’ baseball program, behind a 13-hit barrage led by seniors Cayton Ruby and Tucker Williams, and another strong two-way performance from Tanner Cunningham, notched a big 9-5 victory over the Pirates’ baseball program to obtain a critical SOC II victory and possibly kickstart a strong finish to a season that has already featured a great deal of improvement for Valley in 2018.
For Nolan Crabtree, the outing was, without a doubt, Valley’s best performance of the 2018 season as far as the second-year head coach was concerned.
“We came out from the get-go and barreled up the ball,” Crabtree said. “One-through-nine, we hit the ball hard all night long, and it was just really a great team effort. At the plate, we executed not only in the field, but we bunted and stole bases. Everything went well. We played great team defense, and Tanner Cunningham threw a gem on the mound. It was definitely the most complete performance that we put out there this year.”
While the entire lineup was special on Wednesday evening — as the 13 hits would suggest — the efforts of seniors Cayton Ruby and Tucker Williams were arguably the biggest. Ruby ultimately went 3-for-3 with a walk, a double, two RBI, and a run scored on the day, while Williams went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI, and a run scored as both players were absolutely critical to the overall outcome at the middle to back end of the order.
“We’re playing some young kids, and they were big tonight, but when you have two seniors that combine to drive in four runs and combine for five hits, that’s absolutely huge,” Crabtree said of Ruby and Williams. ” I can’t say enough about those two. Their persistence this season has been outstanding.”
In addition to the senior duo, the play of Brecken Williams and Andrew Andronis was also huge. Andronis ultimately went 3-for-5 with two RBI, a stolen base, and a run scored on the evening, while Williams collected two hits in four trips while scoring a pair of runs on the day.
“Brecken and Andrew had big games at the plate,” Crabtree said. “That’s two young guys going a combined 5-for-9 with three RBI at the plate. It was just a really good effort. Everybody hit the ball, one-through-nine, and that’s just something that doesn’t happen most times against Wheelersburg. We really played good (on Wednesday night), and I was really proud of our boys. I believe that we can build off of it. Baseball’s a funny game. You just got to go to the next outing, stay even-keeled, and keep progressing from there.”
It also didn’t hurt that Cunningham proved another splendid two-way performance for Valley fans to enjoy. Overall, Cunningham collected two sacrifice fly RBI on the day and threw six innings of five-hit baseball while striking out four and walking only two for a two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“Tanner was awesome on the mound tonight, but at the plate, he was huge, also,” Crabtree said. “He had two critical sacrifice flies with the bases loaded that were really good at-bats. On the mound, he was around the zone all night long and kept the Wheelersburg hitters off-balance. He faces the best teams and the best pitchers, and we don’t always play great behind him, but tonight, he was great and our defense was great. He gives us a chance every time he goes out on the mound, and that’s all that you can ask for out of a pitcher.”
Jesse Jones (1-for-4, double, RBI, run scored) and Jake Ashkettle (2-for-3, walk, double, three runs scored) helped Valley seal the deal on Wednesday evening, as well, from an offensive standpoint. The Indians will travel to Wheelersburg on Friday evening in the hopes of looking for a sweep.
“We know that (Michael) Estep is going to have them ready to go Friday night,” Crabtree said. “They’re a perennial contender in the Southeast District and the Division III regional and state realms for a reason. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys tonight. We’ve got a bright future with kids that are working to do things the right way and are going to work hard. I’m looking forward to being there and seeing their development through. These kids are really battling.”
Wheelersburg was led by Evan Dahm (2-for-4, home run, RBI, run scored) and Cole Dyer (1-for-3, sacrifice fly, RBI), while Jalen Miller (1-for-5, run scored), Athan Temponeras (1-for-3, walk, run scored), and Jaydren Guthrie (1-for-2, walk) all joined their counterparts in the hit column. Trey Carter (two walks, run scored), Connor Mullins (walk, run scored), and Will Darling (RBI) rounded out the Pirates’ offensive output.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT