MINFORD — Perhaps Friday began indeed as an April Fool’s Day joke for the Minford High School baseball team.
The Falcons fell behind 3-0 after the initial at-bat, still trailed visiting Waverly 5-4 entering the bottom of the fifth frame, and J.T. Barnett’s arm had them handcuffed for the majority of the opening four innings.
But, at that juncture, Minford made its way across the plate for 11 runs —over the final two innings, off four Waverly pitchers in total, and via 10 of it 11 free passes for the day.
Yes folks, these Falcons finally got serious on April’s opening evening.
In the end, Minford mercy-ruled the Tigers 15-5 in six innings at a cold Falcons’ Nest—and improved to 2-1 in the rugged Southern Ohio Conference Division II, as the Falcons are indeed a three-time defending division champion.
Minford made good on a pair of four-run innings, sandwiched around a dramatic seven-spot fifth canto —in which the Falcons forged five runs across on wild pitches, combined with three singles, three walks, back-to-back RBI-groundouts, an unsuccessful fielder’s choice, a hit batter, and even a Cody Beekman balk.
Oh, there were two stolen bases —and one Waverly throwing error in the inning.
That made it 11-5 entering the sixth, in which four Falcons consecutively —Mason Book, Branson Alley, Cole Borland and Jacob Lewis —all drew walks to lead off, followed by a pair of hit batsmen in Carson Cronin and Kyle Laxton.
Finally, with Minford leading 14-5 in the sixth and only one out, Tanner Nichols came on in relief —only to face the Falcons’ Rhyan Queen.
Queen clearly won the at-bat, smacking a single into left field to score Lewis —and clinching the 10-run mercy-rule.
In addition, as Minford made its mercy rule no laughing matter — the junior Borland battled and bulldogged his way from a 3-0 deficit to a complete-game six-hit gem.
In fact, in facing the Tiger lineup three times through, Borland didn’t allow a hit over the final 13 Tigers he saw —and recorded an out on the final nine batters he faced following his three consecutive fourth-inning walks, including retiring the final eight.
He struck out four, only allowed an earned run apiece in the middle two innings, and retired the Tigers 1-2-3 in stanzas two, five and six.
The turn of events in less than two hours made Minford a winner —with Waverly already falling to 2-2, and to 1-2 in the SOC II.
The Falcons, playing with the SOC II target squarely upon their backs, sure didn’t want to drop two in the conference’s opening week.
On Wednesday, Minford fell at Division IV stronghold Valley 6-5 in a nine-inning epic.
“Coming back in after that loss, the boys were locked in during practice, and we worked on things that we needed to work on. We changed some things up, we sured some things up, made some adjustments, and just came in today playing like our backs were against the wall now. We still control our own destiny, and I think we have a good team to do that,” said Minford coach Anthony Knittel. “I was very proud of the boys bouncing back today.”
Speaking of bouncing back in a hurry, none was bigger than that by Borland —after allowing back-to-back leadoff singles by Hunter Hauck and L.T. Jordan, and Jase Hurd reaching on the Falcons’ only error of the game, and which Hauck crossed.
Borland struck out the next two Tigers, but Cristian Mossbarger belted a two-run double to right, scoring Jordan and Hurd — and binding Borland with a 3-0 deficit.
From there, though, the Tigers’ only offense was three consecutive third-inning singles by Hurd, Barnett and Dawson Shoemaker —and three straight fourth-inning walks to Peyton Harris, Quinton Hurd and Creed Smith.
The Tigers’ only other runs were Shoemaker’s RBI-single to plate Jase Hurd, and Hauck hitting into what was scored a 7-4 fielder’s choice —but an at-bat which brought Harris home.
Borland retired five Tigers in a row — from the final out in the opening inning to the initial out in the third.
“My hat goes off to Cole Borland and him competing. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, which was throw strikes. Waverly came out swinging the bat, which is what we expected. But pitching and defense has been our strengths over the last couple of years. I couldn’t be more proud of Cole,” said Knittel. “By him coming out and finding and utilizing his change-up, we had three or four pitches to go in with. Cole kept competing, and our defense is very good behind our pitchers. We had an error on the third batter of the game, but after that, we played clean baseball. That’s what we’re here to do. Let them hit it and pitch to contact, but let our defense work.”
The Falcons finally hit the ball themselves in the second stanza —after Adam Crank cranked a one-out double to center in the first.
Borland, J.D. Matiz, Grant Wheeler and Aodhan Queen collected singles in the inning —as Cronin reached on a Tiger error and Crank put down a sacrifice bunt.
“We always preach that when adversity hits, what are we going to do? Adversity hit us early tonight, but we bounced back in the second and put up a four-spot,” said Knittel.
That made it 4-3 Falcons —before Queen and Book’s back-to-back singles scored Crank for the 5-5 tie, as Queen collected the RBI.
Wheeler then singled for Minford’s only other hit of the inning —as Barnett walked three of the first six Falcons he faced, before Beekman relieved him as Barnett appeared to have injured his hand or wrist.
Barnett pitched four-plus innings and allowed 10 tallies —nine of which were earned on seven hits and his three fifth-inning walks.
He also hit Book with a pitch in the opening inning.
In all, the Falcons drew seven walks, had four batters be hit by a pitch, benefited from half-a-dozen wild pitches, and even stole three bases.
Hits were on a timely basis, too.
“In the fifth and sixth innings, two big innings with a lot of free bases. And we had timely hits that we did not get the other night (at Valley). It was great that we were able to do that. The biggest thing with baseball, get on base anyway and anyhow,” said Knittel. “If it’s a walk, hit batter, passed ball, wild pitch, you just take it and move on and get it to the next batter. Coming into that fifth inning, we wanted to slow the rhythm down, and we went hunting for fastballs. A couple guys got walked or hit by pitch and then we put the ball in play. Great team at-bats and great things happened as a result. Team baseball is doing the little things right. We’ll do anything we can to get a run.”
That the Falcons did, and got serious against Waverly with all April Fool’s Day jokes aside early.
“We preach at all times that great teams win late,” added Knittel. “Tonight we pulled away with this thing late in the game, which I was very happy to see.”
* * *
Waverly 301 100 — 5 6 3
Minford 040 074 —15 9 1
WHS: J.T. Barnett 4+IP, 10R, 9ER, 7H, 1HB, 3BB, 0K, 25BF; Cody Beekman 1+IP, 3R, 3ER, 1H, 1HB, 2BB, 0K, 7BF; Ben Nichols 1/3 IP, 2R, 2ER, 0H, 2HB, 2BB, 0K, 5BF; Tanner Nichols 0IP, 0R, 0ER, 1H, 0HB, 0BB, 0K, 1BF
MHS: Cole Borland 6IP, 5R, 2ER, 6H, 0HB, 3BB, 4K, 27BF
W —Cole Borland; L — J.T. Barnett
WHS hitting: Hunter Hauck 1-3 RS RBI; L.T. Jordan 1-3 RS; Jase Hurd 1-3 2RS; J.T. Barnett 1-3; Dawson Shoemaker 1-3 RBI; Cristian Mossbarger 1-3 D 2RBI; Peyton Harris BB RS; Quinton Hurd BB; Creed Smith BB
MHS hitting: Gage Wheeler 2-4 2RS RBI; Adam Crank 1-1 D RS HBP BB; Aodhan Queen 2-4 RS RBI; Mason Book 1-2 RS HBP BB; Branson Alley 2RS 2BB; Cole Borland 1-2 3RS RBI BB; Jacob Lewis 2RS RBI 2BB; Carson Cronin RS 2RBI HBP; J.D. Matiz 1-3 RS 2RBI; Kyle Laxton RBI HBP; Rhyan Queen 1-1 RBI
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved