CHILLICOTHE — Wheelersburg’s Derek Moore will have to wait at least two more days before he gets his first head coaching win. But still, he was beaming with pride after his debut.
Moore’s Pirates fell in their season opener Saturday afternoon at VA Memorial Stadium, dropping a 6-5 decision to Hilliard Darby in a game they once trailed 6-3 in.
“No loss is a good loss,” Moore said. “But we’ve faced a team that’s known to be a storied program. We showed we could compete with them. We knew that we were going to have to play our best game and that we were just getting the basketball guys back, so that’s tough. But nobody hung their heads. They came out and competed. We’ll build off this.”
Heading into the fifth inning, Hilliard Darby (1-0) had built a 2-1 lead. But in the top of the frame, Trey Carter got the Pirates’ offense going with a one-out single. That gave way to back-to-back triples via Connor Mullins and Jalen Miller, putting the Pirates (0-1) ahead 3-2.
Miller was 3-for-5 on the day, logging two triples and two RBIs. Moore wasn’t surprised.
“Leader. Jalen has worked his tail off this year and after the first game, it shows,” Moore said. “He came up in senior moments and did what seniors are supposed to do. He’s going to keep our offense going. He came in and pitched and gave us a chance. It shows a lot about his character. He gets thrown into a situation, bears down and gets the job done.”
Mullins, who’s still fresh off the Pirates’ regional basketball run, also looked to be in midseason form. He finished 2-for-3 with a triple, two runs and an RBI.
“You know he’s going to give you his best every time he goes out there,” Moore said of Mullins. “He’s going to compete no matter where we put him. That’s what we want. We’ve been talking about where we should bat Connor. It could be anywhere. But his hard work has paid off.”
After Mullins and Miller gave Wheelersburg the lead, Darby took it back at 4-3 in the bottom half of the inning, chasing Pirates starter Trey Carter from the hill — who was replaced by Miller.
In the sixth, the Panthers extended that lead to three runs at 6-3, thanks to two walks, two hits and a catcher’s interference call. Wheelersburg made one final push in the seventh, scoring two runs to produce the day’s final, but stranded runners on base when the last out was recorded.
Carter took the pitching loss, throwing 4 ⅔ innings. But for the better part of the day, the senior showed significant promise while mowing down the Panthers’ lineup in impressive fashion.
“I’m really proud of Trey today,” Moore said. “He did awesome. He competed. We walked three or four and I think those three or four scored. So, that’s something we can be better at. But we battled. Give credit to Hilliard Darby. They’re a great program.”
The Pirates get back to action Monday evening, traveling to Raceland (Ky.) for non-conference action. They’ll start SOC II play Wednesday at Northwest.
“This is a good first test,” Moore said. “We’re going to learn from it. We’ve got Raceland, from Kentucky, on Monday. They’re known to be another good program. So it’s another test for us.”