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Cougars sophomore Ethan Hinton delivers a game-winning RBI from deep in the lineup.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
COVINGTON - Aspirin and heartburn medication may have been in short supply in local convenience stores that stayed open late Tuesday.
High anxiety accompanied both games of the Pioneer District baseball tournament at Casey Field, at least for a while.
A couple of sophomores turned in the biggest plays as Covington held off Bath County 4-3 in the opener. In the nightcap, James River coughed up a three run lead to Parry McCluer and the teams were tied 3-3 in the top of the sixth inning before James River then erupted for five runs to take a 8-3 lead. The Knights added three more runs in the top of the seventh and finished up the 11-3 victory at 11:39 p.m.
Covington (12-8) and James River (10-10) will return to Casey Field to play 6 p.m. Thursday for the tournament championship. Both teams will continue postseason play next week in Region C, Covington in Division 1 and James River in Division 2.
As for Bath County (6-12) and Parry McCluer (8-9), each is finished for the year.
Covington had led 3-0 in the opener after two innings and held that advantage until the top of the fifth. But Bath County battled back with two runs in the fifth and another in the top of the seventh. Jonah Ford's sacrifice plated the inning's leadoff hitter Michael Criser, also the Chargers' pitcher, to tie the score 3-3.
With a runner on second, Tanner Plecker hit the ball hard to right with two outs, but right fielder Daniel Blevins tracked the baseball down for the third out.
Blevins, a sophomore, would figure heavily in the next inning. With Criser still on the mound, Blevins walked with one out then promptly stole second. A walk later and Derek Oliver made a terrific running catch in center field for the second out. As the Chargers gathered their thoughts, Blevins bolted for third unmolested.
"The shortstop, the third baseman, and the first baseman were all huddled up around the pitcher and nobody was covering third," Blevins said. The pitcher was on the dirt yet and wasn't paying attention, so I just took third."
That brought up the No. 9 hitter Ethan Hinton, a sophomore who been inserted into the lineup five games previous. Hinton ripped a shot to left to bring in the winning run. Blevins had made a heads-up play to make it to third but he would have scored anyway.
"It was my chance when they put me in the lineup so I had to make the best of it," Hinton said.
Covington (12-8) has won eight in row and nine of 10. The Cougars had to beat Parry McCluer 3-0 Monday in a playoff for the regular season title.
"We did what we had to win," Covington coach Mick Strand said after the semifinal. "We didn't play our best game, but Bath County is always tough. It's a rivalry game."
Chargers coach Kris Phillips considered giving Criser the rest of the night off before the seventh but thought better of it.
"I had a guy ready but I figured at the time Michael was my best and I was going with my best," Phillips said. "They beat my best and that's how I wanted it. He'd thrown 130 pitches, which is way too many for a high school kid. But he's got a lot of heart and he always wants the ball."
In the second game, the Fighting Blues rallied to tie the score 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Josh Perry led off the inning with a walk on James River's second pitcher Mitchell Lanning, in relief of freshman left-hander Garrett Dorton. Perry scored two outs later on a wild pitch, the second Parry McCluer run to score in such manner.
James River responded in a big way in the sixth with five runs.
"The big thing there was we answered after they tied the score," James River coach Harry Falls said. "If we hadn't done that, I'm not sure what would have happened in that game."
The Knights then tacked on three more insurance runs in the seventh, Keith Yancey's two-run double being the big blow.
"James River has pitched us well," Blues coach Jason Coleman said. "We picked a bad time of the year for the bats to cool off on us. We shook it up little tonight. They pitched well. We did everything we could to get to 3-3. We needed to keep it there. Our pitching goal was to hold them to four or less."
Jared Arney reached base three times in four plate appearances for James River and added a run-scoring double in the seventh. Dorton, batting in the eight hole, went 2-for-2 with a walk, sacrifice, two RBIs, and two scored. On the mound, he gave up two hits and two runs and struck out two.
"What a game," Falls said.
Bath County 000 020 1 – 4 8 0
Covington 030 000 1 – 4 7 2
Criser and Miller, T. Plecker (4). Howard and Dressler. W—Howard. L — Criser
James River 020 105 3 – 11 8 0
Parry McCluer 000 210 0 – 3 3 1
Dorton, Lanning (5) and Stevens, Chilcott (5). Armstrong, Camden (6), Buchanan (7) and Henderson. W – Lanning. L – Armstrong.
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