WEST PORTSMOUTH – It may have just been barely enough to do so, but the Wheelersburg Pirates (5-2, 4-0 SOC II) did just enough to escape the West side of Scioto County in Senator country with a road win over Portsmouth West (3-2 2-2 SOC II), 5-4 Wednesday night.
“I looked at them before we got off the bus and told them that playing here is a different animal,” Wheelersburg head coach Derek Moore said following the Pirates narrow victory. “They’re our rival, you’re playing here, they see the score Monday as disappointing, we knew they were going to give us their best shot. More credit to them.”
Give them their best shot is something West certainly did.
Wheelersburg began Wednesday’s game by scoring two runs as seniors Trey Carter and Connor Mullins touched home plate in the top of the first inning off excellent base running and timely hitting from the Pirates hitters. But if Wheelersburg believed their early lead would extend to a large deficit as did their lead in Monday’s 8-0 win over the Senators, they would soon find out that wouldn’t be the case.
West quickly answered with a two run first inning of their own thanks to a Garrett Hurd single and a Dylan Bradford double, as well as more solid baserunning, allowing both seniors to cross home and tie things up at two.
To their credit, Wheelersburg was determined to retain their lead. Connor Mullins stole home after reaching on a single in the top of the second to give the Pirates a one run advantage before Cooper McKenzie drove in Jalen Miller to put Wheelersburg ahead 4-2.
From innings two through five, Wheelersburg’s Cole Ratcliff allowed just one Senators hit, a double to left field in the bottom of the fifth inning from Garrett Hurd. Ratcliff was lights out, and so was his defense to back him up.
“Yeah we want to score a lot of runs, but our conference top to bottom is solid,” Moore said. “We want to rely on throwing strikes, playing defense, and getting timely hits and timely runs. Definitely proud of the way our defense played. Loved how Connor Mullins reacted after an error in the first inning, settled down and made big plays. Will (Darling) at third did awesome. Cole Ratcliff, really proud of him settling down after that first inning because he was lights out after that.”
Wheelersburg added another run in the top of the fifth on a Trent Salyers RBI infield single.
From there, the Pirates would take their lead into the bottom of the sixth where Jalen Miller would take over for Ratcliff after a limitingn West to just two runs. After giving up two runs in the bottom of the sixth, the Pirates would take a one run lead at 5-4 heading into the seventh and final inning.
Despite having runners on first and second with just one out in the bottom of the seventh, West would be unable to advance the tying run across home plate, falling short to their SOC II rival, 5-4.
For Moore, with the way his pitching and defense have been playing, when his bats come around, he knows his guys will be a team no one wants to face by season’s end.
“We’ve been hitting the ball pretty well this season, but we want to make sure that’s there. The more runs you can score, it’s so much easier as a pitcher running out there and knowing that you’ve got a three run or four run lead. For our pitchers, finishing downhill. Those are probably the two things I’d say we’ll be working on the most.”
Wheelersburg will prepare to face South Webster Thursday to try and improve to 5-0 in SOC II play. For West, they’ll get ready for their two game series with the Waverly Tigers this Friday and Monday.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT