CHILLICOTHE — A quick start and a scoreless pitching and defensive performance helped the Wheelersburg Pirates win and advance in this year’s postseason baseball tournament.
The Pirates (22-7) defeated Eastern Brown 8-0 in a Division III district championship on Wednesday at V.A. Memorial Stadium by scoring a run in each of the game’s first three innings.
After ‘Burg senior Eric Green had a leadoff single and advanced to third on a sac bunt and passed ball, junior catcher Cooper McKenzie drove in Green on a sacrifice RBI to give the Pirates a 1-0 advantage.
Another lead off hit in the second by senior Chase Conley led to another ‘Burg run when Green drove in Conley on a one out RBI fielder’s choice making it 2-0.
Wheelersburg took a 3-0 lead in the third on a two out RBI double by senior Ethan Ison, scoring Conley for the second time after he reached on a fielder’s choice.
The fast start was something that Pirates coach Derek Moore was hoping to see in his team’s performance on Wednesday.
“We didn’t want them to hang around, knew that they were a scrappy team and that they like to chip away,” Moore said. “To be able to score a run in each of the first three innings was huge, and it let Ethan be a little more comfortable on the mound.”
The Pirates added five more runs in the fifth and sixth innings combined. In the fifth, Braden Horr tripled to score McKenzie, Mason Montgomery singled to score Horr, and Ison had a fielder’s choice RBI.
A two RBI single by McKenzie in the sixth made it 8-0 Pirates needing just three defensive outs to finish the job.
Ison got the start on the mound and pitched a gem, striking out 10 Warrior hitters and allowing three hits in six innings pitched. Junior Hunter Thomas finished the game in the seventh, allowing only one hit and recording the game’s final three outs.
“It starts with Ethan Ison on the mound. Six innings on short rest, gave up three hits, no walks and 10 strikeouts. Huge testament to the hard work he’s put in,” Moore said, of Ison’s performance. “Really proud of him and the guys behind him, our ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field.”
The win gives the Pirate baseball program its’ first district championship since 2017 and first while Moore has been the Wheelersburg head coach.
As a player, Moore’s Wheelersburg teams were 4-for-4 in capturing district titles in their postseason runs, including the 2012 and 2013 state championship runs.
After the Pirates lost two years ago in the district final to Westfall, Moore told his team to use their lessons and runner-up finish as motivation for their next season.
That opportunity would have to wait after the cancellation of the 2020 season, but on Wednesday, Wheelersburg claimed its’ first district title since 2017 and 12th in program history — all occurring since 1996.
“Lost in the district finals two years ago to Westfall and we got the silver medal. Told them the day we lost, put that silver medal where you’ll see it everyday. Let that be motivation to drive you and push you to know that in this program, we strive for the gold,” Moore said, “Today was awesome — full team effort.”
Wheelersburg will next face SOC II rival Minford in a Division III regional semifinal on Thursday, June 3 back at V.A. Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe.
It’ll be the pair’s third meeting this season after the Falcons won the first two contests during the regular season en route to their outright SOC II championship.
Both teams will have a full week’s rest in between their district final and regional semi, and Moore hopes that time will be spent successfully preparing to face the Falcons’ ace pitcher in Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis.
“Two really tight games with Minford this season. When Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis is on the mound for them, they’re tough to beat. We’re going to have to prepare — I’m glad we get a week to prepare and hopefully see some guys from the left side. For us to be successful, we’re going to have to throw strikes, play clean defense, and really hit to all parts of the field. Elijah does a great job of painting the outside corner and we’re going to have to take that away from him to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Eastern Brown: 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 4 1
Wheelersburg: 1 1 1 0 3 2 X — 8 9 1
W: Ethan Ison (W), L: Haupt (EB)
Eric Green 1-2, R, RBI
Case Dyer 1-3, R
Cooper McKenzie 1-2, R, 3RBI, BB
Braden Horr 1-3, R, RBI, 3B
Mason Montgomery 2-4, R, RBI
Chase Conley 1-2, 2R
Ethan Ison 1-1, 2RBI, 2B
Hunter Thomas 1-2, 3B
Eastern Brown hitting
Ethan Tracy 1-3
Wyatt Haupt 1-3
Colton Vaughn 1-3
Zach Gallant 1-2
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved