PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth Trojans, believe it or not, haven’t enjoyed a winning baseball season since 2010.
Perhaps, though, the Trojans are taking the right steps towards ending a decade of disappointment —starting on Thursday night under the lights at Portsmouth High’s Hatcher Field.
That’s because Portsmouth, against non-league and county club Northwest, plated three unearned runs in the opening inning —and gave pitcher Tyler Duncan enough run support to craft a complete-game nine-strikeout effort as the Trojans topped the visiting Mohawks 5-2 in a tidy two-hour tilt.
With the win, the Trojans take their .500 record to one above at 11-10, while the Mohawks —which have been involved in several close contests this season —fell to 5-16.
While work still needs to be done, including remaining Ohio Valley Conference affairs at Coal Grove on Saturday and at Fairland on Tuesday, Portsmouth is playing better baseball —after starting a fiery 5-0 before hitting a six-game slide riddled with injuries.
In all six of those losses, the Trojans took the lead into the sixth and/or seventh innings.
That included a 5-3 lead at OVC co-champion Ironton, as the Fighting Tigers rallied for three runs to win in walk-off fashion 6-5.
So scoring three runs in the first against Northwest, and adding single points in the second and third frames and protecting those advantages, is what needs to happen for Portsmouth.
“We’ve got to find ways to win these close games. I’ve told our kids they should want the ball hit to them and be the one to make the plays defensively, and be the guy at the plate in those situations. Instead of just shying away from that. These three-run or less games, those are the types of games that we need to win and be able to make the routine plays to get victories in,” said PHS coach Aaron Duncan. “I think we’re a good team that has its best baseball ahead of us. We are picking it back up at a good time and we are getting everybody healthy again. We’re starting to win close games, and if we can just put our pitching and defense and hitting together and play our best game, we believe we can win some games the rest of the way.”
The Trojans, according to Duncan, did that first against non-league Notre Dame on Tuesday — winning 11-0 at Hatcher Field for Senior Night.
Against the Mohawks, which scored their first-inning run on the aid of two Trojan errors, Portsmouth played much better baseball after that —as Tyler Duncan delivered a five-hit, no-walk, one earned run performance from there on.
Duncan saw 28 total Mohawks, facing five batters apiece in the opening two innings — followed by four apiece in the next three and retiring Northwest 1-2-3 in the last two.
He also stranded five Northwest runners —one apiece in the first five innings and at third base in the first three.
Waylon McGlone, who reached on an error to lead off the Mohawks’ fourth, and Dakota Secrest — who singled to center in the fifth for his second basehit against Duncan —were left stranded at second.
For Tyler Duncan, it was probably a game of revenge on Thursday night.
“The last time we played Northwest, we took a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning and got two outs, and lost the game. My youngest son pitched again tonight against them, so I could see him being determined to not let that happen again towards the end,” said Coach Duncan. “The biggest thing with Tyler is if he can throw strikes. He is not going to overpower anybody, so he has to be able to mix in his change-up and curve-ball to keep them off-balance. That helps his fastball look a little faster than it is. After the first inning, we settled down defensively too. We cut down the errors that we made, cleaned things up a little bit, played a good game overall and was pleased and impressed we got the win.”
Both teams had five hits, including Secrest’s single in the first.
But Northwest got no closer than 3-2 in the second —when McGlone singled to lead off, advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a two-out single to right by Zane Fry.
However, Levi Tackett tallied the Mohawks’ only other basehit with a leadoff single in the third —as Secrest, Fry and Tackett were all left stranded at third base in each of those at-bats.
In between Northwest’s single markers, the Trojans —against McGlone —combined for a leadoff error, a Daewin Spence single to center, a Michael Duncan sacrifice fly which scored Drew Roe, a Zach Ward walk and finally a two-out two-run single by Christian Keys which scored Spence and Ward.
In the second, Zach Roth and Reade Pendleton both singled, as a two-out fielding error off the bat of Tyler Duncan resulted in Pendleton racing in for the 4-2 lead.
“We have some kids that can run, and what we try to preach is that if they can put the ball in play and use their speed, we can make some things happen. Fortunately for us, we were able to manufacture three runs in that first inning,” said Coach Duncan. “That ended up being big.”
In the third, McGlone walked Michael Duncan and hit Ward with a pitch, as Duncan later scored on a Keys RBI-groundout.
From there, the only other Trojan baserunners by McGlone were walks by Roe (fourth) and Hayden Yerardi (sixth) —and a two-out infield single by Ward for Portsmouth’s fifth hit.
But Portsmouth — pretty much — played well in earning the win.
“There were some errors on both sides, and we were a little sloppy in the field early on, but overall, I thought it was a pretty well-played game for us,” said the coach.
And, one which the Trojans needed — if they aim to end up with a winning season.
* * *
Northwest 110 000 0 —2 5 4
Portsmouth 311 000 X —5 5 3
NHS: Waylon McGlone 5+IP, 5R, 1ER, 5H, 1HB, 4BB, 0K, 25BF; Kaleb Seals 1IP, 0R, 0ER, 0H, 0HB, 0BB, 1K, 3BF
PHS: Tyler Duncan 7IP, 2R, 1ER, 5H, 0HB, 0BB, 9K, 28BF
W —Tyler Duncan; L —Waylon McGlone
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved