AKRON — They say when you go to a dance, you dance with who took you.
It’s that simple, and by George, it’s not complicated.
For the Valley Indians all postseason, those dance partners have been George Arnett and the defensive unit behind him —spearheaded by standout senior shortstop Andrew Andronis.
And, on the biggest ballroom floor — in Saturday’s Division IV state semifinal inside Akron’s spectacular Canal Park —Arnett and the Indians’ defense did almost everything asked of them against the Lincolnview Lancers.
The only inning in which Valley’s plans didn’t pan out was the decisive seventh —and final —as the Lancers (23-8) squeaked out an extremely well-played and hard-fought 2-1 triumph to end the Indians’ season at 20-12.
“I can’t be more proud of the effort George gave us on the mound, and the effort with which we played with defensively,” said Valley coach Nolan Crabtree. “It’s just how we did it. We kept fighting and we had a chance there at the end. That’s all I can ask. What you guys (media members) saw today was what has carried us.”
Indeed, with the sophomore ace Arnett pitching — and actually matching Lincolnview star and Ohio State University signee Landon Price pitch for pitch — and his defense AGAIN not allowing an error, Valley was right there with an opportunity in a scoreless contest through the opening six stanzas.
In fact, with both aces quickly dealing, the first six innings only took a rapid one hour to complete, as the entire game spanned an overly-clean hour and 18 minutes.
But even ice on a hot and humid Akron morning was eventually meant to be broken, and the Lancers —which almost did that to Arnett in the fourth frame —finally got two runs across in the seventh.
It was just one of those innings that all it took was two of the Lancers’ three hits — as Collin Overholz doubled down the right-field line to lead off.
Dane Ebel immediately walked, as defensive indifference allowed him to take second.
After Arnett got Carson Fox out on a bunt, and looked back Overholz at third, Cole Binkley singled to right to score Overholz with the Indians’ infield in —and Ebel added the second run on a Caden Hanf sacrifice fly.
“George had held them down, but the first guy (Overholz) hits the ball pretty decent down the line. Those things happen. We got the first out we needed, and we had to play the infield in, and the guy (Binkley) hits what would have been a routine ball had the infield been playing back. But that was the situation,” said Crabtree.
Crabtree appealed Ebel’s run for if he had left third base early, but he didn’t —and admittedly Ebel made a nice slide under the tag of Valley catcher Jace Copley for the Lancers’ second run.
But otherwise, Arnett —in facing 25 Lancers —retired them 1-2-3 in innings one, two three, four and six.
He struck out four for the entire game, letting his defense do most of the work when Lincolnview put the ball in play.
The best example was in the fifth — when Fox walked to lead off, Binkley sacrificed him over to second as Arnett made the assist, and Hanf singled.
Fox rounded third and tried to score, but Hunter Edwards — with a laser of a throw from right field —connected dead-on with Copley, who applied the tag and nailed Fox for the second out.
Carter Nickel, in centerfield, almost repeated that bulls-eye throw to Copley on the second run in the seventh.
“We have a very athletic outfield with guys who can go line-to-line and gap-to-gap and just run the ball down and catch it. All with great arms,” said Crabtree. “They do an amazing job of letting George pitch to contact.”
Arnett, all week, was the pitcher which didn’t get the most publicity —as that was of course the junior flame-thrower and fast-worker Price.
He struck out the Indians’ entire lineup the first time through, then tacked on five more strikeouts over the final six innings for an astounding 14 total.
He walked Andronis to lead off the fourth, as Edwards’ sacrifice bunt and first of three Lancer errors allowed him to take third.
But Breckon Williams was unable to get down a suicide squeeze bunt to score a hustling home Andronis on the next at-bat, and Price helped himself with his second defensive assist of the inning to tag out Andronis.
Nickel singled to right to lead off the sixth, and Edwards reached out and singled to left in the seventh to score Andronis —who reached on another Lancer error and advanced to second when a Price pickoff attempt went awry.
But between that failed suicide squeeze; a fouled-off bunt with two strikes for a strikeout, a 6-4 fielder’s choice and a runner caught stealing second in the sixth and a 1-5 fielder’s choice to erase Edwards in the seventh, the Indians indeed left a lot of runs out there —despite both teams just stranding one for the entire game.
That was in the seventh of course, as Price faced the minimum three Indians apiece in the opening six innings.
Five of the 23 he saw went to the plate in the last, as he ended the game with his 13th and 14th strikeouts.
“We just didn’t do enough offensively,” said Crabtree. “If those runs weren’t at such a premium, maybe defensively you don’t have the infield in (top of seventh inning) and maybe it doesn’t happen like that. I thought one run was going to do the job the way it started and it ended up being two. It was just a great high school baseball game. Well-played and well-pitched on both sides.”
Especially by Arnett and the Indians’ defense, as they —as they have throughout the entire postseason —did their jobs.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved