WAVERLY — With a pair of aces dealing on Wednesday, it finally — and simply — took two of a kind for the Waverly Tigers to trump the visiting Pirates.
That’s because, against Wheelersburg senior and ace pitcher Ethan Ison, the Tigers took Ison deep into the outfield for back-to-back eighth-inning doubles —as Waverly won 1-0 in walk-off fashion for a Southern Ohio Conference Division II baseball makeup victory.
In the completion of a suspended game from May 3 in which only one inning and two Wheelersburg batters in the second stanza got in during the first 15 minutes of play, Waverly eventually got to Ison for all five of its hits over the final four innings —with four of those five coming in the last two and three of them being two-baggers.
And, those last two Tiger doubles indeed spelled trouble.
After Ison amounted his 12th and final strikeout for the first out in the extra inning, Ben Flanders smashed an offering to deep straightaway center-field.
Flanders, who only a week earlier hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh for the game’s only run in a 1-0 win over Northwest, nearly knocked another one over the fence for the exact same result.
“When it went off the bat, I thought it had a shot for him to have another one,” said Wheelersburg coach Derek Moore.
But he settled for a double, and scored on the very next at-bat by Jase Hurd — whose double sailed towards left-center, but was hit high and certainly hard enough over Eric Green’s head.
Hurd was immediately mobbed at second base by his Tiger teammates in celebration, as the loss spoiled an electric pitching performance by Ison — who worked Wednesday for all seven innings after Elias Robson pitched the 1-2-3 first frame for the Pirates on May 3.
“Ethan (Ison) was lights out for us and so was Derek (Eblin) for them. Two seniors that have bright futures and are going to go play college baseball in a classic pitchers’ duel. After a while, I think their third or fourth time through the lineup, Ethan pitched backwards a little bit but then would come hard, and sooner or later a hitter’s timing starts happening,” said Moore. “You have to give credit to Waverly. Those last two hits of the game were good swings on breaking balls and ended up being deep shots.”
Ison, unlimited against Waverly, suffered the tough-luck pitching loss as he struck out a dozen Tigers —and did not walk nor hit a batter.
The Pirates did not commit a single error either, as Waverly’s only baserunner until the seventh was his pitching counterpart and fellow senior Derek Eblin in the fifth —on a leadoff infield hit.
Ison struck out two Tigers apiece in innings three, four and five, then fanned the side 1-2-3 in the sixth.
Moore correctly pointed out that Ison indeed deserved a better fate, as the Pirates fell to 17-7 —and to 12-3 in the SOC II with a final league makeup game at Eastern on Thursday.
“It sucks for Ethan, because he did really well today with 12 strikeouts and no walks or hit batters. He definitely deserved to win when he throws like that, but credit to Waverly for continuing to battle and finding a way to scratch out one run. That’s something that we didn’t execute very well,” he said. “Today just wasn’t our day.”
If Wheelersburg won the Eastern affair, then the Pirates would end up tied with the Tigers for second-place in the division at 13-3, as Waverly raised its overall record to 17-4.
Minford, which swept both squads including a 4-0 shutout of Waverly and a 3-0 shutout of Wheelersburg, captured the outright SOC II championship at 15-1.
Minford indeed has an excellent pitcher in ace Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis, and Wednesday’s game began to play out for the Pirates like that one did on April 30.
Vogelsong-Lewis limited the Pirates to only two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in a dominant complete-game shutout, as the Falcons forged across a run in the fifth and two more in the seventh.
Ison also pitched in that contest, and the Pirate defense did not commit an error.
Against Eblin, Wheelersburg stranded seven runners, including on the corners in the opening inning when Green and Cooper McKenzie both walked — and at second in the third when Waverly made two errors in the field.
The Pirates were caught stealing for the first out in the third, as the Tigers turned a 6-3 double play for the last two outs in the fourth following a Creed Warren walk.
In the fifth, Eblin —who struck out nine and retired the Pirates 1-2-3 in the second, sixth and seventh — hit Hunter Thomas with a pitch with two outs, before Green lined a direct shot off Eblin for an infield hit.
But Eblin got back up, and came right back, by inducing an inning-ending groundout.
After Eblin’s infield hit in the fifth before being stranded at second, there wasn’t any drama until two Tiger at-bats later — in the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, J.T. Barnett doubled deep to right field —and another Eblin infield hit in which he beat out the throw put runners on the corners.
However, the Pirates prevented a seventh-inning walk-off —when Green caught a middle distance fly ball in left field for the second out, and relayed to third baseman Braden Horr, who quickly, and precisely, fired a relay to the catcher McKenzie.
McKenzie squarely put the tag on Barnett’s pinch-runner Mack Robinson, and stunned the Tigers by flawlessly executing that 7-5-2 double-play sequence.
It too kept the game going into the eighth inning.
“Defense did their job today and made plays behind Ethan,” said Moore. “Eric Green on that fly ball being able to throw a perfect relay to Braden Horr and then Braden throwing a dart to Cooper McKenzie to get the runner out at the plate to go to extras. That’s a play we work on all the time. It was nice to see we can execute that and do things right.”
In the eighth, Thomas reached for the second time on a leadoff error —this time on a dropped third strike.
McKenzie then singled to center with two outs for just Wheelersburg’s second hit, as Thomas took third for runners on the corners once more.
However, Eblin —again —induced the third out of the inning, this time a pop-out to second base.
And, speaking of second base, the Tigers twice found it in the bottom of the eighth for the dramatic 1-0 win.
Moore said it was simply a matter of not being able to cross one mere run.
And, when aces are dealing like they were on Wednesday, that one point is the ultimate king card.
“Offensively, these are the types of arms we’re going to face. We’ve struggled some this year with guys in scoring position and coming up with that two-out hit that scores a run or two and extends an inning,” said the coach. “Defensively and on the mound, we took care of business today, so it comes down to getting some timely hits and taking advantage of runners on base.”
* * *
Wheelersburg 000 000 00 —0 2 0
Waverly 000 000 01 —1 5 3
‘Burg: Elias Robson 1IP, 0R, 0ER, 0H, 0HB, 0BB, 1K, 3BF; Ethan Ison 7IP, 1R, 1ER, 5H, 0HB, 0BB, 12K, 23BF
Waverly: Derek Eblin 8IP, 0R, 0ER, 2H, 3BB, 1HB, 9K, 31 BF
W —Derek Eblin; L —Ethan Ison
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