SOUTH WEBSTER — It was a dreadfully cold day indeed on Saturday, but in the end, it was a white-hot start for the South Webster Jeeps baseball team.
That’s because the Jeeps, in hosting the Whiteoak Wildcats in a non-league season-opening doubleheader, swept the Wildcats with a pair of one-run decisions —a 2-1 win in the opener, before a 5-4 walkoff win in the nightcap.
In that back half affair, the Jeeps broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the seventh — when Riley Cook cooked up the game-winning single to drive in Gavin Baker.
“That was an exciting way to end a great day of opening-day baseball. Our kids didn’t complain about the weather one time, and they were just glad to be playing. Riley Cook is a guy we want at the plate in those situations and he delivered for us today,” said nine-year SWHS coach Ryan McClintic. “But, it was a total team effort to win these two games.”
And, triumphing in the second took a tad more muscle than did the first.
With Whiteoak rallying for two tying runs in the top of the seventh, including —ironically in fact —on an Eli Roberts RBI-single and later a Roberts run on a wild pitch, the Jeeps just answered in their last at-bat.
With one out, Gavin Baker legged out a double —followed by a Jaren Lower single and an intentional walk to Robert Martin.
Cook’s line drive to right field plated Baker, giving him two hits for the game —and four total with two runs batted in.
The decision made a pitching winner out of senior Cam Carpenter, who tossed the final two innings and allowed only one earned run with one hit and one walk with one strikeout.
Lower — the South Webster game-two starter — left with a 4-2 advantage, having pitched the first five innings while allowing one earned run on three hits and five walks with six strikeouts.
“Jaren Lower was nails on the mound for us. He deserved to win this game. He worked out of a lot of tough spots and showed his growth as an upperclassman on this team. It was a big-time performance,” said McClintic. “Last year, Jaren just didn’t get as many opportunities as a starting pitcher, but today he showed his growth from last season. A lot of work in the offseason went into that and I’m very happy for him.”
Both teams made three second-game errors, and those Jeep miscues — per McClintic — allowed Whiteoak to chip back into it.
Trailing 4-0 after the Jeeps’ opening at-bat, the Wildcats scored single runs in the third and fourth for a 4-2 deficit —as Roberts reached third on his seventh-inning RBI-single, combined with an error in left field.
For those curious, that is Whiteoak’s Eli Roberts —not to be confused with the six-foot and five-inch South Webster basketball standout of the exact same name.
All four Wildcat game-two hits were singles, but the Jeeps doubled them up at the plate 8-4.
The senior Baker, who went 3-for-4 with a double, belted his first career home run in the opening at-bat —a solo shot to make it 1-0.
The Jeeps tacked on three more runs in the first —with hits by Martin and Cook and RBIs by Carpenter and Isaiah Ruth.
Like Cook, Lower went 2-of-4 with a run scored.
In the opener, and like Lower later, Martin more than made his mound mark — working six and two-thirds frames, and allowing only an earned run in the second.
He did walk six, but struck out a dozen and gave up just two singles — with Whiteoak’s run coming courtesy of a botched defensive throw with Wildcats on the corners.
Martin bulldogged his way through the cold and the wind — and even snow — on Saturday, as Carpenter collected a final flyball out in the seventh for the save.
“Robert was phenomenal on the hill today. He pitched a gem in terrible conditions. Hard for all pitchers to locate. He battled through the cold, the wind and snow and worked out of multiple jams. Every time we needed a big pitch, he delivered,” said McClintic. “It was a great start to the season for him.”
So too at the dish, fittingly, for Baker and Cook.
The Jeeps — facing Whiteoak starter Barnett — tallied twice in the third, after loading the bases in the second and failing to score.
This time, Cook brought Baker in with the 1-1 tying run —as Martin scored the go-ahead marker when Whiteoak’s first baseman couldn’t handle a hopper hit by Ruth.
Barnett struck out seven for Whiteoak, but walked three as the Jeeps banged out five hits.
Cook and Baker both had two, while Carpenter singled once.
“It was huge to come out in the third and tie the score on that big hit by Riley Cook. That really turned the momentum in game one. Gavin Baker was the tablesetter for us all day and he called a great game behind the dish,” said McClintic. “Our defense left a few outs on the field early, but they stayed composed and made some big plays down the stretch.”
And down the stretch, in the second contest, the Jeeps ended the day — and started the season — off right.
South Webster was set to play at West on Monday —in the two squads’ Southern Ohio Conference Division II opener.
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