CENTENARY — This time, Daewin Spence and the Portsmouth Trojans were on the wrong end of a 2-1 tally to the Gallia Academy Blue Devils.
Although, unfortunately for the Trojans, this 2-1 loss hurts — that is if you’re Ohio Valley Conference championship chasing.
In Monday’s return match of two of the OVC’s top baseball clubs, and certainly two of its top pitchers, host Gallia Academy and ace Zane Loveday landed the important victory —scoring singular runs in innings two and three, and only allowing an unearned Portsmouth point in the fourth for the 2-1 win at Robert Eastman BallField.
Three weeks ago, at Hatcher Field in Portsmouth, the Trojans won 2-1 —as Spence pitched a complete-game two-hit gem with no earned runs and 14 strikeouts of Blue Devil batters.
In truth, the senior standout bound for the nearby University of Rio Grande in Gallia County threw close to that April 12 performance on Monday —with only the Blue Devils’ second-inning counter coming earned.
Both hurlers faced the opposing lineup three times through, and hit one batter apiece, as Spence did his part with 10 strikeouts —scattering only five hits with three walks.
Spence struck out the side in the opening inning, faced the minimum three Blue Devils in the last, and saw only four hitters apiece in innings four and five.
However, on this day, he was outdone by the crafty curve-baller and left-hander Loveday —arguably even the top Division II pitcher in the entire Southeast District.
Loveday gave up three hits, but only one — a Zach Roth pop bloop single to right in the second inning in which GAHS rightfielder Mason Smith lost in the sunshine —was out of the infield.
The others were a third-inning Tyler Duncan single and a Spence sixth-inning single, as both basehits couldn’t net a tying Trojan run — thanks to key outs on the basepaths.
More on that in a moment.
But Loveday struck out 16 Trojans, including the side in the first —and at least two apiece in every inning thereafter.
With the Trojans trailing 2-1 with two at-bats left, Loveday retired Portsmouth 1-2-3 in both the sixth and seventh.
The only other free passes Portsmouth posted were Amari Harmon hit by a pitch with two outs in the second —and walks to Drew Roe, both in the third and fifth frames.
But Loveday stranded seven, including Roth at second and Harmon at first in the second stanza —and Duncan at second in the third.
PHS coach Aaron Duncan said his Trojans, with only two hits the first time against Loveday, eked out a win by getting guys on base and then around —whether walks, hit batsmen, passed balls or wild pitches played larger roles.
The Trojans needed a similar style to work against Loveday on Monday —and it didn’t except for the fourth.
“The last time we manufactured those two runs through some baserunning, and this time we had some opportunities where we got guys on again, but we knew it was going to be hard to manufacture, so we tried to run to make them throw the ball around a little bit,” said Duncan. “Had a couple key outs because we were aggressive and running, but hats off to Loveday. We knew we had to get on the bases and make something happen. If we have an advantage against Gallia Academy, it was probably team speed.”
That includes PHS catcher Reade Pendleton, as the Trojans reduced the deficit to 2-1 with Portsmouth’s only run.
Pendleton reached on a Blue Devil error, stole second and went to third when the catcher’s throw to catch him stealing sailed into centerfield, and scored on Roth’s RBI-groundout to shortstop.
Vinnie Lonardo then reached when a Loveday strikeout resulted in a dropped third strike, but back-to-back strikeouts ended that inning.
Despite Roe’s pair of walks, he was caught stealing third for the second out in the third — and was thrown out from second on a 6-2 fielder’s choice on Spence’s single in the fifth.
Unfortunately for Portsmouth, that was the third out of the inning —and the last best chance that the Trojans had to tie the game.
Coach Duncan — who doubles as the third-base coach — explained the missed opportunities on the basepaths.
“We tried to make something happen in the third with the steal attempt, and that took us out of an inning. Then in the fifth, Drew (Roe) walks and steals second, and I have him running on that pitch (Spence’s single). He gets to third, I thought the ball was going to the (left-centerfield) gap, and I told Drew to round it (third base) and read the throw. If the kid launches it across, I am sending Drew. The shortstop (Maddux Camden) makes the backhand in the hole, he pump-fakes, he didn’t have a play at first, but smart play by him to go home with it,” said the coach. “I told my guys that I am pointing the finger back at myself on that one. I am trying to be aggressive and make something happen with Reade (Pendleton) up next. I felt that was an opportunity that maybe I took away from the kids, but I was just trying to be aggressive.”
That the Trojans had to be, because with Loveday leading the Blue Devil charge —runs were indeed at a higher premium than cheaper gasoline prices.
In the second, with one out, Dalton Mershon and Payton Owens singled back-to-back off Spence —and each advanced a base on a wild pitch.
Another wild pitch, plus a walk to Matt Liberati, allowed Mershon to cross for the Blue Devils’ earned run.
In the third, Maddux Camden walked to lead off and stole second by leaping over Duncan’s tag attempt, moved to third on a groundout for the second out, and then scored on the Trojans’ only error of the game.
“Daewin did have another gutty performance today and pitched well enough to win. Unfortunately, he was going up against probably the best pitcher in Southeastern Ohio. The two runs they got, a couple of wild pitches got one run across, and then the second run, we had Camden out twice. He jumps over the tag on the steal, then we have a play where they bunt right after that, and we get the out at first and almost throw him (Camden) out at third. You look at those consecutive plays, and that’s their second run,” said Coach Duncan. “If we make the routine play, put the tag on him at second or get a good clean throw over there at third, he’s out and we’re out of that inning without giving up that run.”
Instead, the Trojans surrendered that second run —and subsequently, as a result, have surrendered their lead in the OVC standings.
Portsmouth fell 10-6 at Fairland on Friday, as the Trojans (8-3 OVC) now have three leagues losses —and now trail both the Blue Devils (11-1 OVC) AND Dragons (8-2 OVC).
In fact, a Gallia Academy victory over Fairland on Wednesday will wrap up the outright championship for the Blue.
The Trojans, conversely, had a firm grip on the OVC championship —until it lost to visiting Rock Hill.
Then, two consecutive setbacks in three days at Fairland and Gallia Academy —and now it’s the Trojans trying to win a share with some help.
“Winning the league obviously takes a hit, and we would have liked to have won the league, and there is still a slight remote possibility that if some things happen, we could,” said Duncan. “We just have to bounce back this week with Coal Grove on Wednesday and Ironton on Thursday. Baseball is a game of inches, and hats off to Daewin (Spence) for pitching well enough to win. We tried to be aggressive, and today it didn’t work out for us.”
* * *
Portsmouth 000 100 0 — 1 3 1
Gallia Academy 011 000 X —2 5 3
PHS: Daewin Spence 6IP, 2R, 1ER, 5H, 1HB, 3BB, 10K, 27BF
GAHS: Zane Loveday 7IP, 1R, 0ER, 3H, 1HB, 2BB, 16K, 27BF
W —Zane Loveday; L — Daewin Spence
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