WHEELERSBURG — Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis simply did his ordinary job, his fellow Falcons followed suit late at the plate, and Minford made good on something on Friday that it hadn’t done in two entire decades.
That being, at long last, a sweep of the Wheelersburg Pirates in Southern Ohio Conference Division II baseball.
Minford standout pitcher Vogelsong-Lewis threw his second consecutive two-hit gem, and this time he tossed a coveted shutout, as the Falcons soared past the Pirates 3-0 at windy Wheelersburg High School.
And, with that blanking came Minford’s first season sweep of Wheelersburg in the regular season since 2001 — as the Falcons firmly seized control of the SOC II championship chase.
Minford, which won the SOC II outright in 2018 followed by a share with the Pirates two years ago when the last baseball season took place, moved in front of Wheelersburg with the win — with the Falcons’ remaining league games consisting of only visiting Valley on Monday and Northwest on Friday.
The Falcons, which raised their mark to 17-2, are now 13-1 in the SOC II —while Wheelersburg dipped to 15-4 and 11-2 in the league.
Minford managed a 6-2 triumph under the lights at the Falcons’ Nest on April 9, as the Falcons successfully bounced back from their only league loss exactly a week earlier — an 11-7 upset bid by visiting South Webster.
“We now have a bid for an outright championship in the conference. All alone, by ourselves, we control our own destiny. I am extremely proud of these kids today, getting a sweep and getting things done,” said Minford coach Anthony Knittel.
Thus, with Friday ending April and in front of a good crowd in Wheelersburg, Minford —with its only experienced seniors being Vogelsong-Lewis and his catcher com-padre Matthew Risner — muscled out a fifth-frame earned run before tacking on an earned and unearned marker in the seventh stanza.
Of Minford’s seven hits, the Falcons found three apiece in those two innings — as they did get baserunners against Wheelersburg senior ace Ethan Ison, who was just as good as Vogelsong-Lewis was and struck out 11.
But the Falcons’ half-dozen hits which led directly to points were indeed quite timely, and more than enough for the Marshall University baseball signee and all-Ohio three-sport star Vogelsong-Lewis to work with.
He faced 25 Pirates, struck out eight, walked two and didn’t hit a batter — and retired the Pirates 1-2-3 in innings two, four, six and seven.
After opening by walking Eric Green and allowing a Case Dyer single to center, and with those two Pirates reaching second and third on a stolen base, Vogelsong-Lewis retired 13 of the next 14 batters — getting six straight outs before seven consecutive after a Green single to right in the third.
Vogelsong-Lewis then walked Braden Horr with one out in the fifth, but the Falcons turned a 9-6 fielder’s choice off the bat of Hunter Thomas for a critical second out.
From there, EV-L retired the final seven Pirates he saw —including half of his eight strikeouts.
Both coaches knew hits and baserunners, and especially runs, would be at a premium —and simply tipped their respective caps to Vogelsong-Lewis’ regular mastery.
Friday’s performance, in all likelihood, locked up at least an SOC II Pitcher of the Year award campaign.
“You always know what you’re going to get with Elijah (Vogelsong-Lewis). He is going to come in each day mentally prepared, no matter who is in front of him,” said Knittel. “He is coming out with a confident bulldog mentality and getting the win. I am extremely proud of him. He’s the leader of this team, and when your leader goes out and these guys put all the confidence in him behind him, that’s huge. He is a great kid, has bought into the program for four years, and has just done an awesome job.”
“We knew coming in what Elijah was going to do and try to get ahead with his fastball. He throws the fastball a lot and is predominately a power pitcher. We prepared for it, but today just wasn’t our day against him,” said Wheelersburg coach Derek Moore. “He threw a heckuva game for them, and when we don’t score any runs we’re not going to win any games. He kept us in check and the only real scare we had was in that first inning with a walk, a hit and runners on second and third. We didn’t take advantage of that early, then he (Vogelsong-Lewis) got into a groove and did his thing. It was tough after that for us, but it was a great outing by Elijah in a championship-like conference game.”
Minford’s defense didn’t commit an error behind him either, and fielded every ground ball or caught every fly ball.
“No errors. That’s huge. As coaches, we said before this game that the team which commits the least amount of errors is going to win,” said Knittel.
But, so too is the club which will scratch out more hits against the other’s ace.
In facing 32 Falcons, Ison walked Vogelsong-Lewis with two outs in the first, Branson Alley reached on a Pirate fielding error in the second, and Grant Wheeler singled before Vogelsong-Lewis was intentionally walked in the third.
Ison stranded all four Falcons, before retiring five consecutive including fanning four —before Minford mustered three consecutive singles and took its 1-0 lead in the fifth.
Risner down the left-field line and Wheeler directly to left field for singles had Falcons at first and second, as Adam Crank then singled to center to cross Risner.
Ison retired five more Falcons, but in the seventh, Minford made it 3-0 —with two more runs on three more hits.
Aodhan Queen singled to center to lead off and Risner singled straight down the left-field line again, as Crank reached on an infield single with one out to load the bases.
Vogelsong-Lewis then came to bat, and another Pirate fielding error resulted in runs by Risner and Queen.
Knittel said simply, “great things happen when you just put the ball in play.”
“We had to make adjustments. The biggest thing we did was in-game offensive adjustments that we made. (Ethan) Ison had it going early for them, but we made some adjustments to slow down the tempo and start doing what we do and getting guys on. We slowed him down, got him a little rattled, got some timely hits, got some runners on,” said the coach. “Great teams win late, and we were able to get some runs off timely hits late. We did what we had to do. Putting the ball in play and putting pressure on the defense is what it is all about. Make them field their position.”
The Pirates did their best, but that second error was rather quite costly —considering the Pirates’ offense was quieted by Vogelsong-Lewis.
“Ethan (Ison) did a great job for us as well with 11 strikeouts, but Minford had some timely hitting there in those two innings. With the way we have been swinging the bats, we figured we would be okay with one run. But when they score two off the error in the seventh, when we’re not scoring runs, it doesn’t matter at that point,” said Moore. “I’m really proud of our guys and I thought Ethan threw really well. Offensively, it just wasn’t our day.”
It was, however, a great day to be a Falcon — as Minford’s main infielders and outfielders are ALL underclassmen.
They, along with the pitcher-catcher combo of Vogelsong-Lewis and Risner, probably surely celebrated like it was springtime of 2001.
“A sweep of Wheelersburg is huge. We have a lot of young kids on this team, but they have worked extremely hard. Seven out of our starting nine is freshmen or sophomores,” said Knittel. “They came out today, competed on a big stage at Wheelersburg in front of a big crowd. But they never got nervous, they came in expecting to win. When kids buy into something, and they expect something to happen, that’s what’s going to happen. I’m extremely proud of everyone on this team. Huge win today for us.”
* * *
Minford 000 010 2 — 3 7 0
Wheelersburg 000 000 0 —0 2 2
MHS: Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 7IP, 0R, 0ER, 2H, 2BB, 0HB, 8K, 25BF
WHS: Ethan Ison 7IP, 3R, 2ER, 7H, 2BB, 0HB, 11K, 32BF
W —Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis; L —Ethan Ison
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved