ROSEMOUNT — Devin Wiley, as it turned out on Tuesday, was — for the most part — a one-man wrecking crew for the visiting Valley Indians.
Then when Wiley ran out of fuel late and was no longer king for the day, it was Christopher Queen who came in and promptly checkmated the Clay Panthers for a single solitary strikeout — and more importantly a key victory right before baseball’s postseason seeding takes place.
With Wiley working six and two-thirds innings of unexpected relief for the win, and pitching six consecutive innings of shutout baseball, the Indians erased an early 4-0 deficit —and held on for dear life late to escape Rosemount with an 11-8 non-league triumph.
With both the Indians and host Panthers positioning themselves for better seeds in the upcoming Division IV Southeast District tournament, Tuesday’s tilt should play a significant role where each ends up on the bracket —perhaps on a collision course for a third meeting later this month.
The Indians, which play primarily up in schedule in the rugged Southern Ohio Conference Division II, are now 12-8 —while the Panthers, leaders of the smaller-school SOC I, are 13-6.
For the Indians, they are also undefeated against Division IV opponents —two of them being against a quality Clay club.
“Valley drops down to Division IV, they play in the SOC II, and they are one of the best D-IV teams in Southern Ohio that we could see again in the tournament,” said Clay coach Marc Cottle.
Valley’s win came on the heels of a difficult SOC II loss at Division III Minford on Monday, which the Falcons forged in eight innings by a 2-1 walk-off count —the second time that Minford has needed eight innings against The Tribe.
Monday’s win by the Falcons clinched at least a share of the SOC II championship for them.
“This is a huge win for seeding purposes. We’ve been in a lot of ballgames. We’re a handful of plays from instead of being 12-8, sitting here at 16-4 or so. But we’ve set ourselves up in a good spot to get a good tournament draw. We’re not perfect but we’re battle-tested, and I don’t think many teams want to play us. I feel really good about where we are at,” said Valley coach Nolan Crabtree. “We just have to keep getting better. We’re not good enough to just show up and let it happen. I felt like before we left to come here, we were a little hung over. Last night (Monday) was an emotional loss. We fought hard in that game, but we weren’t ready to play today. Carter (Nickel) started, and he had given up only one earned run in 35 innings this year. He came out and couldn’t find it today. But we battled, and thankfully the bats came alive tonight.”
The Indians’ bats broke out —along with walking sticks as five Panther pitchers combined to issue nine free passes, seven of which were walks.
Trailing 4-0 after the opening inning, Valley sent eight batters to the plate in the second stanza — and erupted for five runs on the combination of three hits, a leadoff hit batsman and a walk, a Panther error, an unsuccessful fielder’s choice, and a wild pitch by Shaden Malone.
After Clay’s Jaden Jesse retired the Indians 1-2-3 to begin the game, he hit George Arnett with a pitch and walked Chase Morrow —before Malone came on in relief.
The first six Indians of the inning reached base — as in the fourth they made it 8-5 off Malone, combining a Queen walk, Wiley reaching on an unsuccessful fielder’s choice, and Nick Mowery being hit by a pitch to load the bases.
“We had great at-bats off Malone, who is a great pitcher, but we were ready to hit him and it helped that we had seen him before and knew what to look for. Once we went ahead, it was just a total change in our demeanor and atmosphere. Everything that we needed to do was different. The hangover from Minford was gone, just like it woke us up,” said Crabtree. “We played pretty much to our capability the rest of the way.”
Jace Copley, Valley’s freshman catcher and nine-hole hitter, clubbed a two-run single to left to score Queen and Wiley —as Andrew Andronis legged out a bunt single before Breckon Williams grounded out to cross Morrow.
In the fifth, and with two outs against Evan Woods, Queen and Wiley walked —as Queen stole second, and took the last two bases including the Indians’ ninth run on a wild pitch.
In the sixth, Andronis singled to left and stole second with one out, then Williams and Hunter Edwards both bunted for singles — with Edwards driving in Andronis on the squeeze play.
Woods then walked Arnett, and Williams scored the Indians’ 11th run on a wild pitch to make it 11-5 for Valley’s largest lead.
Andronis, the Indians’ leadoff hitter, ended up 2-of-4 with a run batted in — as Copley chipped in a 2-of-3 effort and three RBI.
But Cottle remarked that nine free passes were among the many miscues his Panthers made.
“Against a good team like Valley, you simply can not make mistakes,” said the coach. “We had too many walks tonight, a couple of errors. Baseball is a game that if you’re not humble, it will humble you real quick. We jumped right on them right at the beginning, but then the next five innings, we only got one run across and went four straight scoreless.”
That’s thanks to Wiley, who relieved Valley starter Carter Nickel — who walked the first four Panthers he faced before Carson Porginski plated a two-run single to right center and make it 3-0.
A throwing error then made it 4-0, before Wiley came in —and after initially hitting a batter —retired the next three Panthers including with a pair of strikeouts.
From there, and through the sixth, he only allowed an unearned run in the second —when Malone reached on an error to lead off, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and finally scored on a Jesse RBI-single.
However, that 5-5 tie was as close as Clay came the rest of the way —with Wiley downright dealing.
He faced 33 total batters, including four in the first, second and fourth —and saw the minimum three in the third before retiring Clay 1-2-3 in the fifth.
Wiley struck out nine, including for two outs in the first and sixth — as he recorded his final strikeout for the first out in the seventh, followed by a pop-out to him for two away.
He gave up only four hits and one earned run.
“Devin came in and absolutely just saved the day for us. He was going to start tomorrow (Wednesday) actually (against Oak Hill), but his performance today, he was our MVP,” said Crabtree. “He went right over 100 pitches. Normally he gets around 90 or so, and that’s when he starts losing control. He got a little tired there at the end, but he did a great job tonight, gave us a chance to win and let us battle back.”
However, Wiley truly tired in the seventh —and walked four Panthers combined with a Drew Zuefle RBI-single and the Indians’ third error.
Clay got to within 11-8, and loaded the bases with the winning run Jesse at-bat, but Queen came in from right field and struck him out to gain the save.
“As bad as we played, we had them right at the end with the tying run on first base and the winning run at the plate,” said Cottle. “But you can’t give up walks, you can’t make mistakes against a good team like that. I try to preach less than two walks and less than two errors, and you’re going to be in a lot of games. We just didn’t do it tonight. That was the difference in the game.”
Wiley and the Indians also spoiled Senior Night for the half-dozen Panthers — Malone, Jesse, Woods, the coach’s son Clay Cottle, Greg Gleason and Noah Wright.
Clay can clinch another SOC I championship share on Thursday —when it returns to Symmes Valley to complete a suspended contest.
That affair is tied at 4-4 entering the ninth inning, as the Panthers — plus another league makeup matchup at Ironton St. Joseph next Thursday — is a perfect 10-0 in the SOC I.
Valley, meanwhile, is 8-6 in the SOC II —and can finish in the top half of the division with wins over Oak Hill and Waverly to close out.
But with Wiley to the rescue on Tuesday, the Indians improved their Division IV seeding standing — set to be released on Sunday.
* * *
Valley 050 312 0 —11 9 3
Clay 410 000 3 —8 5 2
VHS: Carter Nickel 0+IP, 4R, 3ER, 1H, 0HB, 4BB, 0K, 5BF; Devin Wiley 6 2/3IP, 4R, 1ER, 4H, 2HB, 6BB, 9K, 33BF: Christopher Queen 1/3 IP, 0R, 0ER, 0H, 0HB, 0BB, 1K, 1BF
CHS: Jaden Jesse 1+IP, 2R, 2ER, 0H, 1HB, 1BB, 1K, 5BF; Shaden Malone 3IP, 6R, 3ER, 5H, 1HB, 1BB, 1K, 16BF; Evan Woods 1 1/3 IP, 3R, 3ER, 2H, 0HB, 2BB, 1K, 8BF; Carson Porginski 1 1/3 IP, 0R, 0ER, 2H, 0HB, 3BB, 9BF; Drew Zuefle 1/3 IP, 0R, 0ER, 0H, 0HB, 0BB, 1K, 1BF
W — Devin Wiley; L — Shaden Malone; S — Christopher Queen
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved