It was a prosperous May 13 afternoon for baseball in Adams County with two local teams capturing sectional championships withn a matter of minutes. About the same time that the Manchester Greyhounds were finishing off Portsmouth Notre Dame for their sectional crown, Coach Rob Meade and his North Adams Green Devils were doing the same on the unique grass field at Whiteoak High School.
The Devils scored six times in their first two at-bats and with ace southpaw Hank Sparks on the mound, made that stand up for a 7-2 win over the host Wildcats, earning the school’s first baseball sectional title since 2003.
“This was a great win for us,” said Coach Meade. “I am extremely proud of our guys and the way they fought during this game. Jumping out to an early lead was a crucial factor in the game.”
The Devils wasted no time in getting to Whiteoak starter Nick Wardlow for two runs in the top of the first inning. A one-out single by Devin Gardner began the rally, followed by a walk to Sparks. Cleanup hitter Haden Anderson lined a double to center to score Gardner and send Sparks to third. When Cody Hall reached on an error, Sparks scored to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
Not letting up, the North Adams offense struck for four more in the top of the second. Kenny Branch and Blake Bradley began the stanza with base hits and a base hit to right by Mikey Sheeley loaded the bases. A single to left by Anderson made it 3-0, scoring Branch, and a walk to Hall forced home Bradley with the second run of the inning. Austin Copas also coaxed a base on balls from Wardlow, bringing home Sheeley to make it 5-0. A base hit to left by Ethan Brown drove home Anderson with the fourth run of the frame and chased Wardlow from the mound in favor of lefty Jacob Burns, who got out of the jam and then allowed just one run the rest of the way.
The Wildcats picked up an unearned run in the bottom of the second, but Sparks was on his game for the next three innings, putting nothing but zeroes on the Whiteoak side of the scoreboard. North Adams escaped a big scare in the bottom of the fifth when the Cats loaded the bases with no outs, but a come backer to the mound turned into a 1-2-3 double play followed by a fly out to left that ended the threat. The Devils then added a run in the top of the sixth on an RBI ground out by Sparks to lead 7-1.
Whiteoak scratched out a run off Sparks in the bottom of the sixth but the North Adams southpaw bounced back to retire the Cats in order with a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh to sew up a sectional championship for the Devils and move them on to the Division IV District tournament.
“Hank was on top of his game day,” said Coach Meade. “He threw the ball exceptionally well and executed all of his pitches. The 1-2-3 double play in the fifth was huge. To get out of that inning without giving up a run was a critical part of the game.”
Sparks got the win with the complete game four-hitter, striking out nine and walking only two. The North Adams offense produced nine hits off Whiteoak pitching, two each by Blake Bradley and Haden Anderson, with Anderson also driving home a pair.
The win improved the Devils to 8-9 on the year and moved them into a Division IV District semi-final game last Saturday afternoon at V.A. Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, where they faced off with the Trimble Tomcats. Look for a report on that game in a future issue of The People’s Defender.
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.
240 001 0 —7
010 001 0 —2
N. Adams Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Sheeley 4-1-1-0, Gardner 3-2-1-0, Sparks 3-1-1-1, Anderson 4-1-2-2, Hall 3-0-0-1, Copas 3-0-0-1, Brown 4-0-1-1, Branch 3-1-1-0, Bradley 3-1-2-0, Team 30-7-9-6.
Extra-Base Hits: Anderson 2B
N. Adams Pitching: Sparks (W) 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 115 pitches.