WHEELERSBURG — Exhausted, probably overheated, and absolutely drenched in sweat from catching an entire baseball game amid oppressive heat and humidity, Mason Montgomery more than made sure it was all worth it on Tuesday evening.
That even included an initially nasty-looking collision with teammate Braden Horr, as both former Wheelersburg Pirates made a play on a popped foul ball earlier in the game.
While Montgomery took a good country lickin’, he indeed kept on tickin’, —and certainly delivered his own shot on his home field for Portsmouth Post 23’s most important victory of this entire sun-splashed summer.
With host Post 23 trailing 11-10, and with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Montgomery mashed a two-run walk-off home run to score himself and Horr —as Post 23 captured a dramatic 12-11 SCOL slugfest against the Chillicothe Colts at steamy and sunbaked Wheelersburg High School.
That’s correct — and even more amazing but truth be told, his teammates in the dugout called Montgomery’s home run with two outs.
“A lot of them (teammates) came up to me and said they called it. That made me feel good that they were behind me,” he said.
Horr, the final batter of 18 which Branson Smith saw for Chillicothe, drew a walk for the tying run.
The Blue Jays’ sideline chatter was that Horr would find a way to get on base — and that Montgomery would send the Scioto County fans, and even Lawrence County fans, home happy.
As darkness descended upon Wheelersburg High School, Montgomery got the green light on a 3-0 pitch from Chillicothe’s D.C. Dailey —and turned on it for his blast over the left-field fence.
“I told the guys before the inning started to just try and get the tying run to second base, and good things were going to happen. Braden was at first base in that situation, but I told Mason to stick with it and he had the 3-0 go-ahead. He gets his pitch and he hits it out of the park,” said Post 23 coach Drew Lowe. “What a way to cap off league play. It’s been a great summer for Mason so far, and hopefully it keeps continuing.”
Montgomery — raking the dirt around home plate prior to his postgame interview — said that even with all the sweat bearing down on him, the trot around the bases never felt so good.
A week ago, he clobbered a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth to give Post 23 the lead in its 5-4 win over Hillsboro Post 129, but it was nothing quite like Tuesday’s walk-off job.
“I am tired, but that felt great,” said Montgomery. “We knew coming into this game that it was big for the league. Getting this win, putting us in the top spot above them (Colts). Nothing better than doing that (hitting home run) here, especially with a lot of family and friends. But everybody else worked just as hard as I did tonight. It wasn’t a one-man game. We put 12 runs up on the board. There was a lot of offensive willpower today and they played a really great game as well.”
With that, Post 23 moved to 11-4 and 5-1 in the SCOL —and clinched at least a tie for the regular-season league championship.
Portsmouth has in fact played all six of its scheduled league contests, having swept Hillsboro and Waverly Post 142 —and now splitting with the Colts.
Chillicothe, which slipped to 13-6, has only played three SCOL bouts so far — winning the first two but returning to play on Wednesday with another league meeting against Waverly.
The first matchup between the Route 23 rivals, three weeks ago on June 8, was the exact polar opposite of Tuesday’s tilt— a 1-0 pitcher’s classic in Ohio’s First Capital.
In the slugfest for a rematch, both teams went through three pitchers and left eight men on base —as Portsmouth outhit Chillicothe 18-12, and overcame seven errors by getting the Colts to commit three.
And, Post 23’s only unearned run indeed made a difference —as in the sixth it forced a 10-10 tie.
Jaden Jessee singled to left to lead off, then pinch-runner Trenton Williams of Rock Hill raced to second on an errant pickoff throw by Smith —as he then scored on a sharply-hit double down the left-field line by Ironton’s Jacob Sloan.
Montgomery insisted it was “a total team effort” — whether it was Jessee going a perfect 4-for-4 with a double and two runs batted in, or Sloan getting his first of the game at the absolute best time.
“You can’t put this all on one person tonight,” he said. “When we needed it the most, people stepped up in the spot. Clutch hitting, clutch defensive plays, you really can’t ask for anything else.”
Especially from Montgomery.
Once Smith walked Horr, and actually after he threw a ball on the first pitch to Montgomery, Chillicothe coach Tom Barr decided Dailey would finish the at-bat —but his first two pitches were outside and resulted in the count going to 3-0.
Ordinarily, batters are not swinging on that count —but the cleanup man Montgomery wasn’t having any of it.
“Drew (Lowe) told me at the beginning of that at-bat, with two outs and down one run with a guy on first and I’m the four-hole hitter, to go right ahead and unleash on it if it’s there,” he said. “They switched pitchers on me, but he (Dailey) looked like a decent arm that we normally see every day. Nothing crazy, no breaking-ball or anything, and he threw two fastballs outside for a 3-0 count. I did everything I could and it worked out in our favor. Can’t really complain.”
Montgomery finished the game going 3-for-4 with a walk and three RBI, as five other Post 23 hitters had at least two baseknocks apiece.
“Having better at-bats was one of the big focuses coming into this summer. You have to give all the credit to the kids for having great at-bats. They’ve realized that it’s a different part of the game and what to expect in different situations,” said Lowe. “When you’re playing baseball every day, you definitely get the best out of kids.”
Obviously, Montgomery showed no ill-effects of his fifth-inning defensive collision with the third baseman Horr —as Portsmouth pitcher Daewin Spence, who worked the final three innings and earned the mound win, narrowly avoided a three-way disaster.
But Spence, after retiring the Colts 1-2-3 in the fifth frame, unfortunately gave up four earned runs on five hits and a walk with one hit batter in the sixth for a 10-9 Chillicothe lead — as the Colts’ previous advantages were 5-1 after two-and-a-half and 6-5 a full inning later.
Prior to the final score, Post 23 held leads as slim as 1-0 and as large as 9-6 — as the Blue Jays twice tied the game at 5-5 in the third and 10-10 in the sixth.
That set up the seventh, as back-to-back Portsmouth errors with one out allowed the go-ahead Chillicothe run to cross and make it 11-10 — although Spence induced a 6-4 fielder’s choice for the second out, and starting pitcher Reid Mengerink was caught stealing second for the third.
Of the Colts’ dozen runs, only seven were earned thanks to Portsmouth’s seven errors, but Post 23 more than made up for those miscues with 18 hits —none bigger of course than an exhausted and sweat-soaked Montgomery mauling a 3-0 pitch.
Tuesday’s triumph, of Post 23’s 11 wins, marked the sixth such by precisely one run.
“It was a rough night defensively for us, but to respond in the bottom of the seventh, I couldn’t ask for anything more from the guys,” said Lowe. “These guys have fight and are not going to give up in any situation.”
Post 23 was set to play at Ironton on Wednesday in a non-league affair, before returning to Wheelersburg on Friday for another non-league encounter against Raceland (Ky).
First pitch for Friday’s game is set for 6 p.m.
* * *
Chillicothe 005 104 1 —11 12 3
Portsmouth 104 311 2 — 12 18 7
Chillicothe: Reid Mengerink 3+IP, 7R, 7ER, 11H, 0HB, 2BB, 1K, 21BF; Branson Smith 3 2/3 IP, 4R, 3ER, 6H, 0HB, 2BB, 2K, 18BF; D.C. Dailey 0+IP, 1R, 1ER, 1H, 0HB, 0BB, 0K, 1BF
Portsmouth: Hunter Thomas 2 1/3 IP, 4R, 3ER, 3H, 3HB, 0BB, 2K, 13BF; Cam Carpenter 1 2/3 IP, 2R, 0ER, 3H, 0HB, 2BB, 0K, 10BF; Daewin Spence 3IP, 5R, 4ER, 6H, 1HB, 1BB, 1K, 17BF
W — Daewin Spence; L — D.C. Dailey
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved