Garaway’s 14-1 tourney win turns on pair of key first-inning plays

Can a 14-1 baseball game truly hinge on two first inning plays?

Maybe, maybe not, but for the Garaway Pirates, two key plays in the early going proved to be a telltale sign of their route of Steubenville Catholic Central in the Div. III Sectional semifinal game on The Hill in Sugarcreek.

With Austin Miller on the mound, SCC put together what looked like a huge inning in the top of the first.

After a lead-off single, a walk and an error around a pop-out, Miller walked in a run, leaving the bases loaded. He never panicked, inducing a weak one-hopper back to the mound, fired home to Ian Hershberger who threw a strike to Dallas Foster at first for an inning ending double play.

Part A of the first-inning equation to success had taken place.

“That was huge, it got us out of trouble in the first inning and kind of set the tone for the rest of the game,” said Miller of the twin-killing. “After that we were pretty smooth.”

Part two was set up when Miller walked, and scooted around to third base on an errant pick-off attempt. He would score when Trey Hershberger reached on an error, and after Quinn Miller grounded out, Dallas Foster ripped the first of his three rockets to drive home Hershberger to make it 2-1. Ian Hershberger then singled and B.J. Schwartz got whacked in the back by a pitch to load the bases. However, Derek Briggs fouled out to the first baseman, and Tanner Petitte was at two strikes when the second big part of the first inning equation played itself out. Petitte sent a soft looper into no-man’s land in left-center, and it fell between three players who couldn’t snag it, producing a pair of runs. Schwartz would then score when Petitte perfectly executed a play in which he purposely got into a run-down.

What it boiled down to was the Pirates produced three runs with the bases loaded and two outs, while SCC rapped into a double play with runners everywhere and one out.

Was it a game-changer?

Perhaps not, but Garaway coach Justin Elmore didn’t think it hurt.

“I know it was 14-1, but those two plays really kind of were a big deal,” said Elmore. “I thought Austin did a fantastic job of not getting rattled, and he made the pitch to get out of a jam. Then Tanner fought of a couple of good pitches in a key spot and delivered. He didn’t hit it hard, but he put it in play.”

Putting it in play was something SCC did little of after the first inning, while Garaway managed to do plenty of damage throughout the five-inning affair.

The pirates struck for three more in the second. Micah VanFossen, Austin Miller and Trey Hershberger all walked. Quinn Miller fouled out, before Foster rocked a high fastball to the fence in the deepest part of the field in dead-center, scoring a pair. Ian Hershberger then delivered a sharp single to make it 8-1.

Austin Miller had settled in nicely, and plowed quickly through the third. Garaway went back to work in the bottom. A walk and an error allowed Austin Miller to deliver an RBI single. Trey Hershberger popped out to second, but Quinn Miller walked, allowing Foster to again hammer a shot through the hole at short to make it 9-1. Ian Herhsberger walked and Schwartz whacked a 2-RBI single to center to make it 11-1.

The Pirates weren’t done, as they plated three more runs in the inning of what had become a very anticlimactic game.

“The last six or seven games our offense has really lit it up,” said Elmore of his Pirates offense. “And it has been a real team effort. Up and down the line-up our guys have hit the ball.”

Garaway has sprung to life late in the season, reeling off six straight wins to improve its overall record to 12-8. Even with a winning record, the Pirates were just a 12-seed in the super sectional, but all along, they have felt that they are a better team than that would indicate. At a 14-seed, Steubenville CC faithful might agree with that assessment.

“We are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Elmore. “I thought Austin’s poise on the mound was huge, and we feel really good about the way we are playing right now.”

Putting up a couple of touchdowns in the sectional opener can definitely do that for a ball club.

Miller allowed just five hits in the contest, striking out one while walking tow. Foster’s huge bat was a key, the senior hammer driving in four runs while going 3-for-3. Miller helped himself at the plate, reaching base three times and scoring three runs, while Ian Hershberger belted a pair of hits.

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