WHEELERSBURG — Trojans and Pirates — what else needs to be said?
For the first time in over a decade-and-a-half, Portsmouth and Wheelersburg will meet in the baseball postseason after winning their respective sectional finals on Saturday.
The quick-turnaround of tournament baseball has these two historic programs competing on a day’s rest, meeting Monday evening in the Division III district semifinals at 5 p.m. in “Pirate Country”.
The No. 2-seeded Pirates will host the No. 10-seed Trojans for the first meeting between the two programs in the postseason since May 13, 2005, as this year the higher-seeded club hosts all tournament games through the district semis.
A win for each side would put them in Wednesday’s district final against the winner of River Valley and Piketon at the VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe.
Here’s how each team performed to win their respective sectional.
Pirates make it 17 sectionals in a row, defeat Crooksville, 10-0
As the No. 2-seed in the Division III Southeast District tournaments, the Wheelersburg Pirates hosted and defeated visiting Crooksville 10-0 in six innings to earn their spot in this week’s district tournament.
This makes the 17th season in a row the ‘Burg baseball program has advanced to the district tournament. The last season that feat did not occur was the 2003 campaign.
The Pirates scored nine of their 10 runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings combined, plating six in the home fifth while sending 10 batters to the plate.
RBI knocks by Ethan Ison, Creed Warren, Eric Green, and a two-RBI double by Case Dyer helped put Wheelersburg ahead 9-0 over the visiting Ceramics in their 6-run fifth.
A first inning RBI by Braden Horr made it 1-0 Pirates in the first and Ison’s RBI single in the sixth scored the game-winning run.
Ison got the start on the mound and pitched light’s out, going six innings on 66 pitches. He allowed only two hits, no walks, and struck out 10 of the 20 Crooksville hitters he faced.
“Very pleased with how Ethan Ison threw on the mound,” ‘Burg coach Derek Moore said, after the game. “He had great presence and controlled the strike zone from the start. Also, playing clean defense and timely hitting was a great sign for what we hope can be a good postseason run.”
The victory is the 20th of the season triumph for the Pirates, improving their overall mark to 20-7 entering Monday’s contest.
It marks the 3rd-straight win and 5-out-of-6 games in which ‘Burg has prevailed, the only blemish in that span being a nine inning loss to league rival Waverly in a makeup SOC game.
“I feel like this back end of our schedule has kept us locked in on what tournament baseball is all about,” Moore said. “You have to be able to throw strikes, play defense, and have timely hitting and that’s something we have done. Hopefully we can continue this trend, but it all starts on the mound for us. If Ethan Ison, Elias Robson, Hunter Thomas, or Connor Estep can control the strike zone and limit free bases we put ourselves in a good position.”
Third time’s the charm for Trojans, claim first sectional since 2011
A five-run fourth and Vinnie Lonardo’s strong pitching performance pushed the Portsmouth Trojans past Rock Hill 6-3 in a Division III sectional final.
The victory is Portsmouth’s first in a sectional final since 2011, first under head coach Aaron Duncan, and first win for the Trojans over their OVC foe Redmen this spring season.
Rock Hill captured 7-3 and 6-4 wins over Portsmouth in the regular season, something Duncan said before the game was a product of them not playing a complete game.
That was decidedly not the case in Saturday’s win — their 17th of the season.
“We finally put together a complete game against a good Rock Hill team. We executed in all facets of the game, beginning with an outstanding performance by sophomore lefty, Vinnie Lonardo,” Duncan said, after the game. “We had some very timely hits by Tyler Duncan and Christian Keys that allowed us to build a 6-1 advantage heading into the latter stages of the game. And then most importantly, we were able to hold onto the lead by making the routine plays in the field.”
The Trojans (17-12) saw sophomore Tyler Duncan drive in a pair of runs on an RBI singe in their fourth, while seniors Christian Keys and Michael Duncan, junior Drew Roe, and Lonardo each drove in one run apiece.
Keys went 2-of-4 with a run scored as the lone Portsmouth player with a multi-hit day.
“In the big fourth inning our guys were able to work the count and managed a couple of base on balls,” Duncan said. “Getting base runners on allowed us to get several stolen bases and execute some hit and run situations. We batted around that inning, and Rock Hill made a couple of pitching changes. We put the ball in play and utilized our team speed which caused them some problems.”
Lonardo struck out 10 and allowed seven RH hits and three earned runs in six and 1/3 innings. Senior Daewin Spence picked up the five-pitch save, retiring the game’s final two batters and sending the Trojans into the district tournament.
‘Burg-Portsmouth meet in district semis
A step of each team’s postseason journey is complete. Now the question is how far each unit is bound to go.
One thing that’s certain is that the winner of the first meeting between the two Scioto County programs in tournament play in 16 years will be playing for a district championship later this week.
Knowing that, each coach said they were looking forward to the opportunity to compete with a spot in the district final on the line.
“We are extremely excited to be able to win our first sectional title in over a decade,” Duncan said. “It’s been far too long for a program that used to win a sectional title like it was our job. It’s no secret that Wheelersburg has been the pinnacle of baseball on the local and at the state level for several decades now. We’re excited for the opportunity to still be playing baseball and to go compete against one of the elite programs in the state.”
“Should be a great atmosphere Monday evening at our park,” Moore said. “Very excited to host a district semi this year and hopefully get a lot of Pirate Country out to the game. We haven’t seen Portsmouth in a few years, but we know they have had a great program and Coach Duncan has done a great job this year. With there being a chance to go to a District Title, we know both teams are going to come out hungry and wanting it. Hopefully we can find ways to execute and get the job done.”
Wheelersburg is looking for the program’s first district title since 2017 this week, while Portsmouth will need two wins for the program’s first district crown since 1996.
First pitch from Wheelersburg is set for 5 p.m. on Monday, May 24.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved