By Mark Carpenter
Just three days after the two teams had met in the regular season, the baseball squads from Peebles and Western Latham were back on the same field on Saturday, May 7, but this time with much more at stake. Saturday was the beginning of the postseason for both teams and would be the end of the postseason for one of them.
That first meeting on May 4 was a 17-0 run-rule victory for the Indians from Peebles, but Saturday’s sectional semi-final contest turned out to be just a little more difficult as a fired-up group of Western Indians kept the game tight but after a slow start, the host gang from Peebles saw their tournament run extended as they claimed a 5-2 win to advance to the Division IV sectional championship game.
The win, keyed by six strong innings on the mound by right hander Blake Stivers, was the ninth in the last 10 outings for the Peebles squad and improved their overall season mark to 12-8. With the “W”, Stivers improved to 3-4 on the spring with an earned run average of 1.72.
After a scoreless first inning and Stivers blanking Western in the top of the second, Peebles struck first in the bottom half. Jack Behr led off with a base hit, swiped second, went to third on a passed ball, and scored on a ground ball to shortstop off the bat of Joe McElwee.
The home team kept that one-run lead until Western came to the plate in the top of the fourth and the visiting Indians tied the score. With one out, Dustin Branscomb doubled to center and then later scored on a throwing error by Peebles shortstop Brennan Sims.
That Western score must have woke up the lackluster Indians offense, that up to that point had done little more than hit routine fly balls off of Western pitching. Levi Newkirk began the frame with a line drive hit to center and stole second, then came home to score on an error by the Western first baseman that allowed Behr to get all the way to second base. A double down the left field line by Conner Browning brought Behr across to give Peebles a 3-1 lead.
Browning went to third on another Western miscue in the field and came home on an RBI ground out by Sims to cap off a three-run inning that eventually proved to be the difference in the game.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Indians padded their lead with another run, when Stephen Penn singled and came home on yet another Western error to make it 5-1.
Stivers’ final inning of work was the sixth and he was replaced on the mound for the seventh by Penn, who provided a few anxious moments for Peebles fans when he walked the first two batters and allowed a base hit to Shane Tackett that scored a run and made it 5-2, but the Peebles right hander was then helped out by an odd double play that helped snuff out the Western rally.
With runners at first and second and still no outs, the runner on second took off for third but when catcher Caleb West’s throw beat him there, the base runner decided to retreat back towards second where he was caught in a rundown and tagged out. The runner from first took off for second and the throw to second baseman McElwee was in time for the second out of an odd twin-killing. Now with the bases empty and two out, Penn struck out Adam Smithson on three pitches to sew up the 5-2 tourney win for the home team.
“I thought Western came out and played tough,” said Peebles head coach Scott Lovett. “Tournament games are tough to win and we are happy to be moving on. From an offensive standpoint, today was one of those days where we couldn’t get base hits to fall. Blake threw another great game for us, more than I wanted him to throw, but given the situation of the game we had to stick with him.”
Stivers went six innings for the win, allowing just two hits and no earned runs, punching out seven Western hitters and walking none.
With the win, the Indians advanced to a Division IV sectional title game, where they faced no easy task. Peebles was scheduled to face fellow member of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference, the Fairfield Lions, on Tuesday, May 10. A win there would propel the Indians into the district tournament in Chillicothe.
“We know what we have ahead of us,” added Coach Lovett. “Fairfield is a very good, fundamentally sound team. We played them the first week of the season and struggled to get anything going. The second half of the season we have been a much more confident team and the kids are ready to go to Leesburg to play for a sectional title.”
WHS 000 100 1 —2
PHS 010 310 x —5
WHS Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Lykins 3-0-0-0, Brewster 3-0-0-0, D. Branscomb 3-1-1-0, J. Branscomb 3-0-0-0, Herman 2-1-0-0, Humphrey 1-0-0-0, Tackett 3-0-1-1, Smithson 3-0-0-0, Ferneau 2-0-1-0, Team 23-2-3-1.
PHS Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Sims 4-0-0-1, West 3-0-0-0, Stivers 3-0-1-0, Penn 2-1-1-0, Newkirk 3-1-1-0, Behr 3-2-1-0, Browning 3-1-1-1, McElwee 3-0-0-1, Vaughn 1-0-0-0, Cluxton 1-0-0-0, Team 26-5-5-3.
Extra-Base Hits: Browning 2B
PHS Pitching: Stivers (W) 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 7 K
Penn 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K