MINFORD — South Webster baseball coach Ryan McClintic said he felt his team wasn’t afraid of the moment prior to their SOC II road battle with Minford on Friday.
The Falcons entered this season as the two-time defending SOC II champions, but it was the Jeeps who outlasted their hosts in what was originally scheduled to be Minford’s home opener, under the lights, with a 7 p.m. first pitch.
South Webster scored at-least one run in every inning besides the sixth and earned their first league win of the season — an 11-7 victory over the Falcons.
It was a true marathon finish as the outing lasted 3.5 hours, featured 81 at-bats (45 for South Webster, 36 for Minford), and a whopping 303 pitches (138 South Webster, 165 Minford).
“I tell the kids all the time every game is the biggest one because it’s the next one. Minford’s been one of the top teams in the area for a long time, back-to-back league champs and a Final Four team a few years ago. Good program here,” McClintic said. “Our kids aren’t afraid. What I’m more proud of is after going 0-3 to start the week, coming out here tonight with a job to do and getting it done.”
With the win, South Webster (2-3) becomes the first SOC II team not named Wheelersburg since April 19, 2017 (Valley, 1-0) to defeat the Falcons and first SOC team since March 29, 2017 (Waverly, 5-3) to win at Minford.
It is also the first time McClintic, now in his eighth season as the Jeeps’ head coach, has beaten Minford, he confirmed after the win.
South Webster capitalized on eight Falcon errors, collected 12 hits as a team and had “gutsy” pitching performances to pull off their first league win of the year in three tries.
In its’ 1-3 start prior to Friday, South Webster had scored just eight runs in 28 innings.
McClintic praised his lineup as the “most-dangerous” he’s coached and believed a change in approach was the difference in their offensive explosion against Minford.
“This is the most dangerous (lineup) I’ve had, 1-through-9. Every guy in the lineup brings something to it and is consistent,” McClintic said. “Early in the week I felt like we were giving up too many at-bats. We were making guys look better than what they are because we’re not grinding-out any at-bats. Tonight I thought we grinded out every single AB.”
Eight different Jeeps collected a hit while Aidan Andrews, Robert Martin, Cam Carpenter, and Riley Cook had two apiece.
Carpenter had a game-best three RBI while junior Trae Zimmerman had a pair.
SW sophomore starter Robert Martin earned his first career varsity win in the effort, tossing five and two-thirds innings, striking out 10, allowing two earned runs and walking four — keeping a Falcon offense averaging 10.5 runs a game prior to Friday below that.
“Gutsy. He didn’t look like a sophomore in his second varsity starting nod,” McClintic said, of Martin’s start. “Hostile enforcement, under the lights, cold weather. Kid was cool, calm, and collected all night and battled through adversity every inning.”
There was a disagreement in-game between coaching staffs regarding Martin’s pitch count — Falcon coach Anthony Knittel and his staff had Martin at 127 pitches and McClintic and his staff tallied 122.
The OHSAA pitch count rule says a player’s daily limit is 125 pitches, but the pitcher is allowed to finish the batter if he reaches the count during an AB.
Martin was ultimately pulled after 5.2 innings and junior Cam Carpenter entered in relief.
Carpenter earned the save as he led the Jeeps to the game’s final four outs and its’ lone 1-2-3 half inning, as the Falcons went down in order in the bottom of the seventh.
“They’re allowed to finish the batter, he (Martin) finished the batter and we told the umpire what we had as his pitch count,” Knittel said, of the situation. “It’s nothing personal — the kid was awesome tonight.”
“We had 122 and that would have been Robert’s final batter. We didn’t have the same number as they did, umpiring crew tonight said they were going with the home team’s number. I just know that our kids handled it well,” McClintic said. “Talk about a kid (Carpenter) coming in and wanting that situation. Really proud of way he came in, sat through the weather through 5.5 innings and then performs.”
Errors accounted for 14 of the game’s 18 runs with Minford committing nine fielding miscues in the seven inning affair.
Sophomore Cole Borland got the start for Minford and pitched two complete innings before fellow sophomore Noah Martin entered in relief and completed the game from the hill for the final five.
Knittel said his pitchers located well and stayed on-target, but the defensive mishaps were too much to overcome.
“We could have made defensive plays. Cole Borland, he pitched well — filled the zone up, threw strikes. But when we’re giving up runs, free runs, it’s tough for any pitcher to stay in a groove,” Knittel said.”Giving up bases, things like that. If we play the game like we’re capable of and not do those things, I think the outcome could have been a lot different.”
After trailing by as many as six runs at 8-2, the Falcons nearly overcame a six-run deficit and brought the game to within two runs at 9-7.
Two errors in the top of the seventh helped secure two more runs for the Jeeps, however, and helped ease some of their late game pressure.
“We fought, we fought back and made it close. But the same thing that shot us in the foot all night happened again, made a couple more errors, walked a couple of guys,” Knittel said. “Defensively we just have to be better.”
This year’s group of Falcons boast a good amount of youth with the lone returnees from the program’s Regional Champion and Regional Runner-up teams in 2018 and 2019 being seniors Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis and Matthew Risner.
For seven of the Falcons’ nine starters, including Borland and Martin on the mound, Friday’s defeat was just their third varsity game of their young careers.
“We’ll definitely grow from this, I think it’s a huge learning experience for this team. Talented team, but young. Baseball, unfortunately, is a game of failures,” Knittel said. “A guy can hit for an average of .300 and be considered one of the best players ever. The biggest thing for us is worrying about the next pitch after a mistake, that’s something we’ll try and take away from this.”
South Webster is looking to build off the win and improve their standing in this year’s SOC II race, as well as a push in the Division IV postseason tournament come May.
McClintic thinks his group will take this experience of a big win and see their capabilities for what they can achieve, in both the regular and postseason.
“I think the kids will see that — I’ve known it all along,” McClintic said We told them they just have to believe it and wins like this show that’s possible.”
South Webster: 2 3 1 2 1 0 2 — 11 12 5
Minford: 2 0 0 2 2 1 0 — 7 7 8
Pitching — Win: Martin (SW), L: Borland (M), Save: Cam Carpenter (SW)
Aidan Andrews 2-4
Gavin Baker 1-3, 2 BB, 3 R
Robert Martin 2-4, 3 R
Cam Carpenter 2-3, 3 RBI, R
Trae Zimmerman 1-5, 2 RBI, R
Riley Cook 2-4, RBI, BB
Jaren Lower 1-3, RBI, 2 BB, 2 R
Connor Bender 1-3, R
Billy Jones 0-4, BB
Grant Wheeler: 1-3, 2B, RBI, R, BB
Matthew Risner: 3-4, RBI, 2 R
Aodhan Queen: 1-4
Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis: 0-1 (3 BB, 2 R)
Adam Crank: 1-3 (R)
Branson Alley: 0-1 BB, 2 HBP, R
Noah Martin: 1-3
Ben McGraw: RBI
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved