WEST UNION – If you’re scripting it out as an Indian fan, Wednesday’s sectional semifinal win for Valley over West Union might have looked a little different. A correction on a base running error here or there, the Dragons scoring three runs early to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the first portion of the game, both things that may have been avoidable.
But, there’s a reason teams play seven innings. By game’s end, Valley had completely settled in at the plate, extending their lead out with a five run seventh inning for a 10-3 final score. A win is a win is a win, but Indians head coach Nolan Crabtree knows his team can correct those minor mistakes that cost his team in the early stages.
“We’ve got too many guys with too much varsity experience to make those mistakes we did early on,” Crabtree said following the Indians 10-3 sectional semifinal win over West Union. “If we do that Saturday, we don’t play anymore. We hit the ball really great all the way through, I felt great about that. But we’ve got to clean up our mental mistakes and our execution.”
Crabtree’s right, the Indians’ bats were pretty solid throughout the night. Particularly those of sophomore Breckon Williams and Tanner Cunningham. By night’s end, Cunningham finished 3/5 at the plate with a game high five RBI while Williams finished 3/4 with three RBI and two runs scored. There’s a reason Williams and Cunningham are in the two and three hole of their lineup.
“Tanner stepped up big for us when we needed that offense, that’s what we expect out of him as a senior,” Crabtree said. “Breckon’s bat was really big tonight, and Jesse Jones another senior had a great game, so did Kayden Mollette. We’ll need that kind of production out of them moving forward.”
Jones finished Wednesday’s game 2/3 with one RBI while Kayden Mollette finished 2/4 with two runs scored and one RBI.
The Indians began Wednesday’s game with senior Jake Ashkettle on the mound. Knowing that the Indians had SVC champs Westfall looming if they could pull off the road win over the Dragons, Crabtree was cognizant of how long to keep Ashkettle in with ace Cunningham ready to go at any point.
After the three early runs scored by West Union, two of which were earned, and an extremely small margin error, Crabtree went to his ace to finish the second half of the game.
“Struggled all week with how I was going to approach it. I honestly felt like we were going to hit well enough that we wouldn’t need a shutout. Jake’s done a good job all year, he’s been solid. Tanner’s been an ace. I went to him a little bit earlier than I planned on, but I felt like we needed someone to come in and keep things at bay. We get the lead, they get a runner on, season’s in the balance right there.”
Wednesday’s win gives the Indians a spot in Saturday’s sectional final against league champions in the SVC, the Westfall Mustangs.
After their district title run a season ago, Valley is no stranger to coming up in the clutch and knocking off higher ranked teams. For his team to do that Saturday against the second seeded Mustangs, Crabtree says it’ll take a much cleaner performance.
“Anytime we have Tanner on the hill like we will Saturday, he gives us a chance. After winning districts last year, these kids know you don’t have that margin of error. Both games we won at districts last year were one run games. It’s going to be a game where you have to do all the little things right. I feel great about Saturday, feel great about where our bats are. Hopefully we got those first game jitters out of the way and we’ll go compete for seven innings.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved