LUCASVILLE — Once again, pitching and defense did the job for the Valley High School baseball team on Saturday.
That’s because the Indians, on the strength of aces Carter Nickel and George Arnett allowing only two hits and Valley’s defense not committing a single error, advanced to the Division IV district championship game — defeating visiting Ironton St. Joseph 6-1 in a semifinal tilt.
The Indians’ offense opened up the gates as well, cranking out a dozen hits and taking full advantage of three Flyer errors —as Valley scored three runs in the second inning, two more in the fourth, and finally a single point in the fifth.
The Flyers, which scored a single run in the top of the fourth to get within 3-1, had a big threat going with the bases loaded —but Valley coach Nolan Crabtree made the calculated switch by replacing the starter Nickel with Arnett, who got a strikeout and a flyout for the final two outs of the frame.
After the Indians answered with their final three runs, they were on their way to raising their record to 17-11 —and more importantly advancing to Monday’s district championship bout against Huntington.
The top-seeded Indians faced off against the fifth-seeded Huntsmen on Monday afternoon inside spacious VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe.
Nickel started and worked into the fourth, throwing 82 pitches and allowing an earned run on one hit with two walks and three hit batsmen.
He struck out five en route to the pitching win, as Arnett escaped the aforementioned bases-loaded jam and went the final two and two-thirds with two strikeouts.
Nickel retired seven straight after a shaky first frame, hitting Elijah Rowe with a pitch with one out and walking Blake Stuntebeck with two — but in between erased Elijah Rowe when Jackson Rowe hit into a fielder’s choice.
The Flyers forged their only run in the fourth when Jackson Rowe singled and Stuntebeck walked again, as J.C. Damron sacrifice bunted both over into scoring position.
Nickel then hit Michael Mahlmeister and Max Weber back-to-back to first load the bases, as Weber was credited with an RBI when he was hit to cross Stuntebeck.
That’s when Arnett relieved Nickel, as he then retired seven consecutive Flyers himself —as the only baserunners Arnett allowed were Mahlmeister getting hit again with two outs in the sixth before Matt Sheridan singled in the seventh and Elijah Rowe walked.
For the Indians’ offense, Christopher Queen churned out three hits for the second straight postseason game —as all 12 of Valley’s hits went for singles off three Flyer pitchers.
Nickel, Andrew Andronis and Jace Copley collected two apiece —as Arnett, Chase Morrow and Blake Wood wound up with one.
Queen also scored three runs —as Arnett, Morrow and Copley crossed the plate once.
Breckon Williams walked in the fourth and sixth stanzas, as Copley chalked up three runs batted in along with one apiece by Queen and Hunter Edwards.
Wood was hit by a pitch in the second —when Valley scored all the runs it needed for the win.
Stuntebeck started for the Flyers and tossed a 1-2-3 opening inning, but Arnett singled to lead off the second —and Chase Morrow’s sacrifice bunt attempt resulted in an error.
Queen then drove in Arnett on a single, Morrow raced home on a wild pitch, and Queen came in on a Copley sacrifice fly.
The Indians added runs in the fourth when Queen, Nickel and Copley all singled — with Copley scoring Queen and sandwiched around a fielder’s choice along with another error.
Copley came home on an Edwards groundout to shortstop, making it 5-1 in favor of the Indians.
In the fifth, Morrow and Queen singled with one out and —after St. Joe turned a double play —Copley singled in Queen to make it 6-1.
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