CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — The Lucasville-Minford Road rivalry between the Lucasville Valley Indians and the Minford Falcons added another chapter to the long story of athletic endeavors between the two schools. Minford and Valley took their rivalry to the historic V.A. Memorial Stadium in an OHSAA Division III Southeast District Championship game, which saw the Minford Falcons defeat the Valley Indians, 4-3.
With the win, Minford claims a district championship and will move on to the regional semifinal round.
“I’m very proud of our effort tonight,” Minford baseball coach, Brent Daniels said. “We knew it was going to be a tight ballgame, both regular season games were. We knew it was going to be a nip and tuck game.”
The district championship game was nothing less than a tight game. While Valley never held a lead in the game, Minford never had more than a two-run lead.
Both teams came ready to play Thursday evening. After seeing their leadoff hitter fly out to left field, Valley put together three consecutive singles to threaten Minford early in the game.
With the bases loaded and only one out, Minford needed a big play to get out of the inning, and their shortstop Ian Tolle came to the rescue. Tolle caught a line drive by Eli Harr and then proceeded to throw the ball to second to double up on Valley to convert a double play to end the top of the first inning.
In the bottom of the first inning, Tolle came up big again for the Falcons scoring a run to give Minford a 1-0 lead after one inning of play.
After a Shaun Mersiel single, Tolle reached safely via a fielder’s choice. He would then be knocked in by the designated hitter, Jared Alley thanks to an RBI double.
Tolle crossed the plate again in the third inning, thanks to another base hit by Jared Alley.
After three complete innings, Minford led Valley 2-0.
Valley would rally in the fourth inning to tie the game.
Blake Howard started the fourth inning off for Valley by reaching on an error and then stealing second base. Two batters later, Bryan Rolfe hit a single that sent Howard to third. Rolfe advanced to second via a stolen base, which put runners on second and third as the catcher Kenny Williams came to the plate.
Williams hit a clutch single that drove in Howard and Rolfe to tie the game 2-2, with the game heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.
Falcons left fielder, Matthew Gullett hit a two-strike single to start off the bottom of the fourth inning for Minford. He was followed by Kody Kennedy, who reached safely after an error.
Minford catcher Luke Lindamood came up with a clutch hit of his own with two runners in scoring position, driving in his two teammates to give the Falcons a 4-2 lead after four innings.
In the top of the fifth, Valley got one run back as Tanner Cunningham crossed the plate. Cunningham drew a walk as the second batter of the inning and was brought in by Blake Howard.
After five innings, Valley cut Minford’s lead to a single run, 4-3.
Valley had a great defensive sixth inning, as they cut down Minford in order, sending the game to the seventh inning.
Still trailing by a run, Valley had only three outs to score or see their season come to an end. The Indians got their first batter of the inning on base, as Tucker Williams reached safely after an error. He then advanced to second thanks to a Derek Burk sacrifice.
However, Williams would stay 180 feet away from tying the game, as Minford struck out the next batter and then got the last out of the game with a fly ball to left field.
“We got some hits when we needed to move some runners around,” Daniels said.
“This was really the kind of game we expected to play,” Valley baseball coach, Nolan Crabtree said. “It was like this both times during the regular season. It was just who capitalized on mistakes and they did once again today.”
Alex Powell pitched the complete game for Minford. In his seven innings of work, he gave up three runs, two earned, off six hits. Powell walked two batters and struck out one in the contest.
“I thought Alex threw an outstanding game,” Daniels said.
Eli Harr got the nod for Valley on Thursday. The Indians lefty went six innings for Valley, allowing four runs, three earned. Minford got eight hits of the Valley hurler, who walked and struck out one batter.
Valley had a much different game at the plate than they did against Albany Alexander Tuesday evening. The Indians finished with six hits in the game, three of which came in the first inning.
Drew Wolford led Valley with two hits on the night, in his 2-for-3 performance from the plate.
Kenny Williams finished with a team leading two-RBI night, hitting 1-for-1. He also drew a walk and was credited with a sacrifice.
Minford had two batters with two hits in the game, Shaun Mersiel and Jared Alley. Mersiel singled to start the first inning for Minford and then again in the fourth inning. Alley drove in a run with each of his singles, one in the first and then another in the third.
Alley drove in Tolle each time, who went 1-for-3 on the night with a pair of scores.
“Their defense was spectacular tonight,” Crabtree said.”You can’t say enough about what they did.”
The Minford defense came up big several times to stymie potential scoring efforts by Valley. The Falcons turned a pair of double plays in the game and also saw a diving stop by Tolle to end Valley’s fourth inning just before the Indians scored another run.
“I’m proud of our defense,” Daniels said. “The last couple games, they’ve been right there. They’re making plays and just grinding. They’re having fun and just grinding for us.”
Valley will lose nine Indians to graduation this year.
“They will be sorely missed,” Crabtree said. “They are a great group of all-around athletes. They’ve been a part of a ton of success in football, basketball and baseball. They’ve been SOC (II) champions. They’ve won sectionals and districts and even a regional in football. This group has been so successful and they’re going to be missed because they’re great kids and the mark they have left on Valley athletics can’t be understated.”
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.