AKRON — Something was bound to give, and eventually it did.
After six scoreless innings inside Akron’s Canal Park, Valley and Van Wert Lincolnview’s scoring opportunities in their Division IV state semifinal were at a premium.
It was a textbook definition of a pitcher’s duel.
Neither team had managed a hit in the first four innings and at halftime. Both teams’ aces and their accompanying defenses had combined to retire the game’s first 21 hitters.
Valley sophomore George Arnett and Lincolnview junior Landon Price combined to allow only five hits in their epic battle that lasted under one hour and 20 minutes.
An RBI single by Lincolnview’s Cole Binkley drove in Collin Overholt with one out in the top of the seventh, breaking the blistering pace by both pitching staffs and scoring the game’s first run.
The Lancers brought across another run in the top of seventh on a sac fly by Caden Hanf to make it 2-0 with one out.
With runs coming at nearly the bare minimum, Valley coach Nolan Crabtree said he felt early in the game as if one run would decide the contest.
Although the Indians would get one back in the bottom of the seventh, it wasn’t quite enough to get past Price and Lincolnview in a 2-1 postseason-ending loss.
“If the runs weren’t at such a premium, maybe you don’t have the infield in. I thought one run was going to do the job the way it started and it ended up being two,” Crabtree said. “Great high school ball game, great played game by both sides. I thought we represented our team and community well.”
Hunter Edwards drove in Andrew Andronis on a no out bloop double — the Indians second and final hit — to make it 2-1 in the home half of the seventh.
Edwards was tagged out at third on a bunt attempt by Breckon Williams that was fielded by Price who turned quickly and beat Edwards’ out-stretch arm for their first out.
Valley had a chance to score the game’s first run after a leadoff walk by Andronis in the fourth. He made his way to second on a sac bunt and to third on Lincolnview’s first of three errors, but was caught stealing and tagged out at the plate on an attempted bunt.
“We went for the squeeze with how he (Price) had been striking guys out. Thought it was the right play, just didn’t get a bat on it,” Crabtree said. “It was a tough pitch to get down and it happens. In the seventh, Price made a good play on it. We want that to be fielding by one of their other guys, but that’s not easy with how hard he was throwing.”
A frozen rope of a throw by Edwards in right field prevented a Lancer run in the top of the fifth after a Hanf single nearly scored Carson Fox, but a tag at the dish by freshman catcher Jace Copley after Edwards’ relay kept things scoreless.
It was one example of how Valley’s defense played up to its’ potential in their meeting with Lincolnview.
“We have a pretty athletic outfield. Guys who can move line to line, gap to gap with great arms,” Crabtree said. “What you saw today is what has carried us.”
Game-ending strikeouts by Price — his 13th and 14th of the game — sealed the victory and put the Lancers in Sunday’s D4 state title game versus the winner of Warren John F. Kennedy and Fort Loramie.
Price — a class of ‘22 Ohio State commit — struck out the game’s first nine batters in order, nearly pitching an immaculate second inning with three strikeouts on 10 pitches.
His presence on the mound was as advertised, Crabtree said, but Arnett was right there in retiring Lancer hitters with composure.
“He’s (Price) going to Ohio State for a reason. He’s Division IV player of the year and he showed why,” Crabtree said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the effort George (Arnett) gave on the mound and the effort we played with defensively.””
Valley will graduate six seniors, including Williams, Andronis, Blake Wood, Wesley Holbrook, Nick Mowery, and Devin Wiley.
“They’ve all been with us for a few years and they’re all great kids who will be sorely missed. Great kids and I’m very proud of them,” Crabtree said.
They’ll return Arnett and six from their defensive and hitting lineups from this year’s regional championship team, most of which were playing and starting as varsity players for the first time this season.
“We’ve got to stay hungry. A lot these kids, this is their first year of high school baseball because of COVID. All of a sudden we’re in the state tournament. Now that we’ve got a taste of it, hopefully this leaves a bad taste,” Crabtree said. “The experience is phenomenal, but knowing how close and depending on tomorrow’s result, maybe 1-2 plays away from being state champions. But we represented our community and conference very well.”
Lincolnview 000 000 2 — 2 3 3
Valley 000 000 1 — 1 2 0
LHS: Landon Price 7IP, 1R, 0ER, 2H, 1BB, 0HB, 14K, 23BF
VHS: George Arnett 7IP, 2R, 2ER, 3H, 2BB, 0HB, 4K, 25BF
W — Landon Price (L), L — George Arnett (V)
Collin Overholt 1-3, R
Dane Ebel 0-2, BB, R
Carson Fox 0-2, BB
Cole Binkley 1-2, RBI
Caden Hanf 1-2, RBI
Andrew Andronis 0-2, BB, R
Hunter Edwards 1-2, RBI
Carter Nickel 1-2
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved