WEST PORTSMOUTH – For the first 4.5 innings of their contest Monday evening with Waverly, it felt as if the Portsmouth West Senators were knocking on the door.
It took until the bottom of the fifth inning for the Senators to break through, but when they did, they did so emphatically to come from behind and defeat SOC II foe Waverly 8-6 on their home field.
“When I first hit it, I thought it was just a deep shot, I didn’t really think it was gone,” said West junior Cade McNeil. “I was trying to get at least two, but when I saw everyone cheering, I started to slow down. That was what we needed in that moment, it really turned us around.”
What the Senators needed in that moment was a clutch play, and McNeil more than delivered with a bases clearing grand slam with one out in the bottom of the fifth to push West ahead of Waverly 6-5.
“That was the shot in the arm that we needed,” said Senators head coach Chris Rapp following his team’s 8-6 win Monday night. “We had a double play ball early in the game where our runner got hung up on second. That hit’s the first good thing that’s happened to us in a week. It’s just what we needed in the right moment.”
When he wasn’t hitting go-ahead grand slams, McNeil started out Monday’s game on the mound. But after a rocky start through just one inning, Rapp made a change to bring second baseman Garrett Hurd to the mound, a decision that paid off from the jump.
In six innings of work, Hurd allowed just four hits, one run, zero earned runs, and struck out six Tigers batters. When things looked grim early for West, Hurd and his defense behind him bit the bullet and did what needed to be done to give their bats an opportunity to win the game.
“Garrett knew he may come in in relief,” said Rapp. “He doesn’t get shook, he came in and did what he had to do. He stayed ahead of the count, came in and made pitches that we were able to make plays with. He did an outstanding job today for us.”
While Hurd and his defense were busy retiring Waverly’s bats, it was time for the Senators bats to come alive.
McNeil’s grand slam was the tipping point in Monday’s game between West and Waverly. However, if it weren’t for junior Brennan Bauer getting on base and stealing two bases once he got there and sophomore Luke Howard going 3/4 at the plate with an RBI in the fifth and two RBI in the bottom of the sixth, West may not have been in position to win their third SOC II game in 2019 and fourth overall.
“Luke really came up for us in the clutch, and he has already this year for us,” said Rapp. “Being a sophomore, to come up and get hits like that for us, what more can you ask for? He got on with Garrett Hurd coming up, we knew that, and we took the risk that they might try and throw him out and even if they get him, we come to bat in the bottom of the seventh with the top of our order up. Getting Bauer and Hurd on really set Luke up for that big double, helped give us that extra cushion that we needed.”
With a revenge win over Waverly Monday after falling to the Tigers on Friday, Rapp and McNeil are hoping this win will help correct the Senators course and better prepare them for postseason play in May.
“Waverly’s one of the tougher teams in our conference, and we go up against Valley on Wednesday,” said McNeil. “Getting a win against Waverly after getting shutout by them on Friday, that really boosts our confidence. We’re going up against some of the better pitchers in our conference and we’re getting base hits. We’re just going to try and keep putting the ball on the ground and in play.”
“This’ll make practice a lot more enjoyable,” said Rapp. “I think it’s going to give us the momentum that we need to go into a tough Valley atmosphere and a tough Valley team.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT