CHILLICOTHE — The time of day didn’t matter to the Valley Indians baseball team — as long as they got the chance to take the field on Saturday.
Beginning with a 9:57 p.m. first pitch at VA Memorial Stadium in their Division IV, Chillicothe #2 district semifinal vs. Southern, the Indians scored six of the game’s first seven runs to defeat the Tornadoes 6-2.
The No. 1-seed in Division IV in the Southeast District — and the No. 1 team in Division IV in the Ohio HS Baseball Coaches Association poll — have officially made their way back into the district final.
It took just under two hours for Valley to end Southern’s chances. Indians coach Nolan Crabtree said his team’s offensive focus was on putting the ball in play — to which they excelled.
Valley scored the game’s first four runs in the second and third innings — after a scoreless first by both teams.
Junior Chris Queen singled and later reached third base on a wild pitch in the second inning, before sophomore Jace Copley drove in Queen with an RBI single to put Valley ahead 1-0.
In the third, three-straight Valley at-bats resulted in Indian runs.
Freshman Tate Queen drove in freshman Jaekyn Ridout to make it 2-0, junior George Arnett tripled down the left field line to score Queen, and Chris Queen scored Arnett with an RBI ground out.
Valley tallied six total runs against Southern pitcher Will Wickline — just two of which were earned.
“We knew that if we put the ball in play, they were going to have a hard time. (Will) Wickline, behind our two guys, probably the next best pitcher in the district,” Crabtree said. “Every time we put it in play, we got on base. We competed and kept the pressure on them, and that’s what we knew we’d have to do today.”
A Southern error in the fifth inning resulted in two more Valley runs — as senior Chase Morrow and Tate Queen scored from third and second base, respectively, on an infield fly that was dropped.
The Indians carried a 6-1 lead into the seventh where junior right hander Carter Nickel would see his outstanding outing come to a close.
In six and one-third innings, Nickel struck out 12 Tornado batters, issued two walks, allowed six hits and one earned run.
Arnett would earn the seven-pitch save — getting the final two Southern batters to ground out to end the late-game threat.
“Carter has had a dominate season on the mound — high strikeout numbers, low walk totals,” Crabtree said. “He went out and did what we needed him to do and was really good tonight.”
Valley will face No. 4-seed Southern in Monday’s D-IV, Chillicothe #2 district final at 4 p.m. at VA Memorial Stadium.
The Lions defeated Ironton St. Joe 11-1 in five innings in their own district semi on Saturday.
It’s also a rematch between the two from a meeting in the regular season — a contest that saw Valley 6-4 winners on April 25 at VA Memorial Stadium.
“They’re a good team. They want a little revenge on us — knocked them out in sectionals last year and met them in basketball districts this year,” Crabtree said. “We’ve got to come play our baseball. If we do that, we’re tough to beat.”
Southern 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 — 2 6 3
Valley 0 1 3 0 2 0 X — 6 7 1
Lincoln Rose 1-3, R
Will Wickline 2-3
Josiah Smith 3-3, R
Brayden Otto 0-2, BB
Jaekyn Ridout 0-2, R
Chase Morrow 1-3, R
Tate Queen 2-3, 2R, RBI
George Arnett 2-2, R, RBI, BB
Christopher Queen 1-3, R, RBI
Landon Jones 0-2, BB
Jace Copley 1-3, RBI
Will Wickline (S) 6IP, 7H, 2ER, 8K, 2BB (L)
Carter Nickel (V) 6.1IP, 6H, 1ER, 12K, 2BB (W)
George Arnett (V) 0.2IP, 0H, 0ER, 0K, 0BB (S)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved