Big Blacks sweep Generals, advance to regionals


By Paul Boggs - [email protected]



Members of the Point Pleasant High School baseball team pose for a picture after capturing the 2016 Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 championship following wins of 2-0 and 12-9 over Winfield.


Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

POINT PLEASANT, W. Va. — A day after winning — and thus sitting — pretty, Point Pleasant proved it can win a bit on the ugly side.

But, no matter how artistic it may or may not appear, the bottom line for the Big Blacks is that they are back in the regional tournament.

Thanks to Thursday’s 12-9 triumph over the visiting Winfield Generals, Point Pleasant is officially the Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 baseball champion for the third consecutive season.

After winning over Winfield in a clean 2-0 pitcher’s duel on Wednesday, the Big Blacks — bolstered by a pair of five-run innings — swept the best-of-three series on Thursday.

With the win, Point Pleasant raised its record to 17-12 — and won its fourth consecutive contest.

After splitting the regular-season series, the Generals — which rallied from a 5-0 fourth-inning deficit to take a 6-5 lead — end the season at 13-16.

The senior-laden Big Blacks endured an up-and-down affair on Thursday, but offset Winfield’s six unanswered runs with their second five-spot to lead 10-6.

The Generals then got to within 10-9 with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, but bad baserunning by Winfield combined with alertness and awareness by the Big Blacks got them out the jam with the lead.

Chris Lush, Point Pleasant’s primary center-fielder, finished off the Generals in gaining the save — retiring all four batters he faced.

With that, the Big Blacks punched their ticket to next Thursday’s (May 19) Region 4 semifinal — against either Logan, Nitro or Saint Albans.

Afterward, third-year PPHS coach Andrew Blain compared Thursday’s sectional title to his previous two.

The most notable difference: Point Pleasant needed only two tilts this year instead of a nerve-wracking three.

“This is one of the more veterans teams that we’ve had. I really expected to get through it (sectional tournament to regional) with this group, because of the fact that we have 11 seniors and a lot of guys with a lot of varsity experience. This one is good also because we got it done in two games, as opposed to the last two years when we had to go three games with them (Generals),” said Blain. “Today was somewhat of a sloppy game, but I was really proud of the guys because they were resilient and they battled and they did a great job of picking each other up when one guy didn’t get the job done. That’s a good team win. It’s a good thing we don’t have one guy, we have nine.”

Speaking of “nine”, it was the number “nine” defensive position that assisted in arguably the most important play of the game.

As Matt Richardson and Jordan Cunningham couldn’t get outs in the sixth, the Generals got three runs to trim their second deficit of four runs or more to 10-9.

With one out and the bases loaded — thanks to three walks, two hits and a hit batsman — Blain brought Lush in to pitch against Aaron Blackwell.

Blackwell flied out to Richardson in right field, as Winfield didn’t run the bases well — with Richardson relaying to first baseman James Littlepage to tag out Noah Short between first and second.

As a result, the Generals’ tying and go-ahead runs were stranded in scoring position, as the Big Blacks dodged the proverbial bullet.

“We did a good job of staying under control and maintaining our composure right there,” said Blain. “They ran the bases poorly and we made them pay for it. (PPHS catcher) Justice Chapman has been doing a great job of being loud and being vocal and being our general behind the plate. Our guys really responded well to that situation.”

That set up the bottom of the sixth, when the Big Blacks combined a hit batter, two intentional walks, two sacrifice bunts and an error for their final two runs.

The Big Blacks’ pair of five-run outbursts occurred on three hits apiece, as those were their only basehits all game.

Trailing 6-5 in the fifth, Kaleb Beckner and Derek King were both hit by pitches with two outs, setting up Lush lacing his second triple in as many nights.

Beckner and King scored on the play to put Point ahead for good, as Garrett Litchfield was then hit by a pitch — before Richardson’s double scored both Lush and Litchfield.

“I was really proud of the way the guys responded (after falling behind 6-5). They stayed in their at-bats. Chris Lush and Matt Richardson went back-to-back with two hard-hit balls for four more runs. In order to regain momentum, we did a very good job of that,” said Blain.

Lush and Beckner both scored three times, as Beckner singled twice and was twice hit by pitches.

In all, Point Pleasant took advantage of eight walks and six hit batsmen — free passes issued by a pair of Winfield pitchers.

Short started and suffered the loss, allowing 10 runs on all six hits with five walks in the opening four and two-thirds.

Blain said the key was scoring runs, not necessarily collecting hits.

“I was really pleased with our small-ball game today. We got guys on base, we moved guys over, opened up holes in the defense and when we did hit the ball hard, they made errors. I was really proud of the fact that we did a good job of bunting the baseball and moving guys over. A couple of steals, a couple of sacrifice bunts, things like that,” he said. “We got six free bases by the hit-by-pitch and eight walks. I’ve been preaching all year long that hits don’t win games, runs do. We had 12 runs tonight on only six hits. My philosophy is runs win games not hits, and we did that tonight.”

Pitching and defense win games too, as Lush struck out two as part of his 1-2-3 scoreless seventh.

“Chris Lush came in and pitched very well. The one thing he will do is throw a lot of strikes. And we needed strikes right there,” said Blain. “I’m a big proponent of making sure guys earn their way on the bases. I don’t like errors or walks. We needed to have a quick release and a quick trigger and Chris came in there and did a good job of filling up the strike zone. He kept us right where we needed to be.”

The Generals only mustered five hits, including two by Casey Frye, whose RBI-double and eventual run scored made it 10-9 in the sixth.

Point Pleasant starter Tristan Austin — who struck out three — opened the game strong, allowing a leadoff single to Frye before retiring the next nine Generals he faced.

But Winfield got on the board with an unearned run in the fourth — thanks to the first of four Big Black errors as Blackwell had an RBI-single.

Three more errors allowed the Generals to take the 6-5 edge in the fifth, as Tate Hancock had an RBI-single for the inning’s only hit.

After that, Richardson replaced Austin on the mound, as all six runs charged to Austin in his four and one-third stanzas were unearned.

Richardson gave up two hits and one walk with three earned runs in the sixth, but was the winning pitcher of record thanks to the Big Blacks’ fifth.

“We really haven’t done a good job all year of putting teams away. And we didn’t put them away tonight. We let them come back in the top half of the next inning after we took a 5-0 lead. We didn’t makes plays and our defense wasn’t as sharp as it normally is. That puts them in position to get extra at-bats and gives them extra outs. You can’t do that in playoff time,” said Blain. “We’ve got to be able to put teams away, especially now that we’ve advanced to the regional semifinals. It’s only going to get tougher from here on out.”

Indeed, it wasn’t always a work of art on Thursday, but a tournament triumph is a tournament triumph — and that’s all that matters right now.

“We just have to get the win and make it to the next day,” said Blain. “Now we have a whole week to regroup and work on things that we have to work on and get better at as a team in order to prepare ourselves for the regional semifinal game. And we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ll be ready to go.”

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106

Members of the Point Pleasant High School baseball team pose for a picture after capturing the 2016 Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 championship following wins of 2-0 and 12-9 over Winfield.
http://mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_5.14-PP-Sectional.jpgMembers of the Point Pleasant High School baseball team pose for a picture after capturing the 2016 Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 championship following wins of 2-0 and 12-9 over Winfield. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs

[email protected]

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