Barnesville Falls In State Semifinal
AKRON — Barnesville’s second appearance at the state baseball tournament ended the same as the first, unfortunately.
The Shamrocks couldn’t shake off a bad first inning in falling to Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, 7-1 in a Division III semifinal Friday morning at muggy and overcast Canal Park.
Barnesville scored once in the top of the first and could’ve added a couple more if not for a running catch in left for the third out. It gave up three tallies in the bottom of the inning as an error and a misplayed ball keyed the Eagles early outburst.
“I thought the big play came in the first inning,” Barnesville head coach D.J. Butler admitted. “If Logan (Shepherd’s) ball gets down in left field we probably score two, and if we play that same bottom of the inning, it’s 3-3 instead of 3-1. After that I think we pressed a little bit that forced us into a couple of mistakes.
“I think maybe we saw the stage and maybe in that first inning we got a little shell-shocked, star-struck … whatever. We didn’t play our best in that first inning, but they battled like they have all season. I cannot fault their effort,” Butler noted. “I just told the kids we may have not won today, but hey we were in the state semifinals.”
Ayden Hannahs drew a walk to start the game and went to second on a wild pitch. Two outs later and after Hannahs had stolen third, Gavin Carpenter walked. Kyvan Johnson rolled a 1-2 pitch through the hole at short as Hannahs waltzed home for a 1-0 lead. With runners on first and second, Shepherd sent a drive to deep left that Alex Moffitt got on his horse and tracked down.
Jack Vogele and Cooper Robinson drew back-to-walks off Hannahs to start the bottom of the first. Vogele broke for third as Caden Crawford was called out on strikes. Johnson’s throw to third was in time but Vogele stopped and headed back to second where Robinson had advanced. As Robinson headed back towards first, the throw sailed awry and the runners ended up a second and third. Johnathan Russell then struck out on a pitch in the dirt that got away from Johnson as a run scored and the Eagles had runners on the corners. A fielder’s choice erased Robinson at the plate for the second out, but pinch-hitter Will Murphy’s shot to left got past Spencer Bliss, who slipped on the outfield grass, for a two-run triple and a 3-1 lead.
The Shamrocks (25-7) threatened in the fourth as they had runners on first and third with one out after Edwards singled and went to second on a balk and Carpenter singled. With a full-count on Shepherd, CHCA pitcher, Colin Ames, faked a move towards third and then looked at first. The first base umpire immediately threw his hands in the air and stopped play, leaving everyone to believe a balk had been called. However, after the four umpires got together, Carpenter was returned to first and Edwards remained at third.
“We thought he (Ames) crossed the rubber with his foot which means you’ve got to make a move to the plate, but the home plate umpire overruled the first base umpire,” Butler explained of a key play in the third that would’ve allowed Barnesville to score a run and have a runner at second with only one out.
One pitch later, the Eagles were out of the jam.
Barnesville could only muster up two baserunners in the final four innings against Ames and Murphy, who took over with a runner on and no outs in the sixth. Ames fanned six and walked four while Murphy punched out three and issued no free passes.
“We haven’t seen velocity like that all through the regular season or tournament,” Butler said of the Eagles mound duo. “I don’t want to say it caught us off-guard, but we couldn’t time it up and get a good stick on it.”
CHCA made it 4-1 in the second before adding a run in the fourth and two in the sixth.
Hannahs struggled with his control as he walked five while striking out seven. Carpenter relieved in the fourth and recorded a trio of Ks and walked three.
The loss ended the superb careers of the three seniors on the Shamrocks squad.
“Guts. All three of them were leaders in their own way and they all had different roles,” Butler said of his Hannahs, Edwards and Brady Wildes. “Ayden was our emotional leader and the guy who was going to carry us. Jake was the silent leader but spoke up when he had too, and Brady was pretty-much a pitcher all season, but he played his role and had four wins for us during the season. If you watched him during a game that he wasn’t pitching, he was always the first one out of the dugout to congratulate his teammates.”
As for the eight juniors and one sophomore that saw action, as well as the younger players on the bench, Butler said he hopes they took it all in.
“You don’t know whether you’re going to get back here again. I’ve been coaching for a long time and this is my first time here,” Butler said of the experience. “I hope the younger kids take in every thing about this trip … everything it had to offer. This is an experience that they will never forget for the rest of their lives.”