Manchester rally falls short in 10-6 loss to Belpre
By Mark Carpenter
Perhaps it was the surprisingly chilly spring weather or perhaps it was the hour plus wait for the game to begin, but whatever the reason, Sunday evening at the VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe didn’t turn out the way the Manchester Greyhounds hoped it would as they faced off with the Belpre Golden Eagles in a Division IV district semi-final contest. The Hounds dug themselves an early hole, valiantly fought back, but eventually fell short as they saw their 2016 season come to a close on the short end of a 10-6 score.
“We wanted to attack their defense as early as possible because we knew they had the potential to kick the ball around,” said Manchester head coach Kyle Brewer. “I thought we made solid contact all night but just hit it right at people and really couldn’t get in a groove until late in the game. Nerves might have played a small role in our slow start but I thought once we got settled down and acclimated to the settings, we battled until the last pitch.”
“Our young men have fought adversity all season,” Brewer continued. “Early season injuries put us in situations where our young guys had to step in right away. We were often putting guys in spots in the field that really weren’t their primary position. The VA is a beautiful place to play baseball. With our young guys traveling with us, my hope is that it made them motivated to get back there and try to win a district title.”
After pulling out a thrilling 1-0 win over Green in the sectional finals, the Hounds could only manage three hits on a chilly Sunday evening as Belpre hurler Bailey Sprague fired a complete game for the win, allowing just two earned runs. After one of his best outings of the season in the win over Green, Manchester starter Sean Frost had a much tougher time on Sunday, failing to get through the second inning, plagued by a combination of control problems and some defensive lapses behind him.
The top half of the first inning may have been an omen of things to come for the Hounds after lead off hitter Hunter Conley was hit by a pitch. Hitting in the two hole, center fielder Rickey DeAtley attempted to bunt Conley over, but popped it up, and the Golden Eagles turned that into a rally-killing double play. Frost then flied to center and after a promising start, the Hounds put up a zero and would pay for that when Belpre came to the plate in their half.
Lead off man Cole Knotts dropped a base hit in front of DeAtley in center, and when the next hitter bunted, Frost fielded and fired to second but Conley mishandled the throw to put two on with no outs. Kole Counts was hit by a pitch and Frost was in some early trouble, bases loaded, none away. A base hit up the middle by cleanup hitter Tavian Miller got the first Belpre run home and a single by Sprague made it 2-0. Later, a bloop hit down the left field line by Jesse Collins brought two more across and the Golden Eagles had an early 4-0 advantage.
The Hounds went scoreless in the top of the second, setting the stage for the Belpre offense to strike again. With one out, Josh Davis singled to center and was forced at second, leaving the Eagles with a man at first and two outs. Miller drew a walk and Sprague reached on a dropped third strike, opening the flood gates once more in an inning the Hounds should have been out of.
A base hit by Collins scored both runners and made it 6-0, and another dropped third strike into a wide expanse behind the stadium’s home plate, scored Sprague and the Golden Eagles were in the driver’s seat, up 7-0.
Facing the big deficit, the Hounds came to bat in the top of third and began to chip away at the gap, finally giving their fans something to cheer for. Jacob Calvert led off the frame with a walk and was run for by Michael Rickett. After Gage Lucas went down swinging, Conley walked and a later balk call on Sprague brought home Rickett to get Manchester on the board.
Frost drew a base on balls and a base hit by Colton Thornburg scored Conley to make it 7-2. Mason Applegate reached on an error, allowing Frost and Thornburg to come across and suddenly, the Greyhound hopes were alive again as they now trailed just 7-4.
Southpaw Rickey DeAtley had relieved Frost and recorded the final out of the second inning and he set down the Eagles with no further damage in the third. The Hounds had a scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth but they squandered two base runners to keep the deficit at three.
After a perfect fourth from DeAtley, Manchester got one more run back in the top of the fifth. With one out, Thornburg reached on an error, stole second, went to third on a ground out by Applegate, and scored on a line drive hit to left by Jared Stricklett. Walks to the Cox brothers, Kaulen and Kaige, loaded the bases, but the rally ended when Lucas struck out swinging for the second time.
DeAtley’s fine relief performance continued when he had a 1-2-3 fifth, but he ran into trouble in the sixth when the Golden Eagles pulled away. Davis walked and Counts singled to left, and after a fly out, Sprague drew a free pass to load the bases. At that point, Coach Brewer went back to Frost to face Collins, who reached on a fielder’s choice to bring home the eighth Belpre run. Frost walked the next two hitters and a wild pitch scored another for the Eagles. An error let the third run of the inning come across and Frost was replaced on the hill for the second time, this time by right hander Hunter Conley, who got Zach Becker to fly to right to end the inning with Belpre now up 10-5.
Down to the final three outs of their season, the Hounds came to bat in the seventh and with one out, Applegate walked and Stricklett reached on catcher’s interference. After Kaige Cox flied to center for the second out, brother Kaulen singled to left to score Applegate to make it 10-6, but the game and the Greyhound season ended when Lucas flied to right for the final out.
It was a big night at the plate for Belpre’s Jesse Collins, as he drove home half of the 10 Golden Eagles’ runs. Even with nine walks, Sprague managed to wiggle his way out of trouble enough to throw the complete game for the win.
Despite scoring six runs, the Hounds managed just three hits, singles by Thornburg, Stricklett, and Kaulen Cox. His final outing will not be one he will want to recall too often but after an outstanding high school career, Frost took the loss, finishing the season with a record of 3-4 and a 2.26 earned run average. The senior also led the team with a .409 batting average.
The Greyhounds finished the year with a record of 6-10 and bid farewell to a special group of seniors, led by Frost and the team’s vocal leader in Applegate, plus the versatile DeAtley. Also seeing their final time in the blue and gold were Michael Rickett and Jared Stricklett.
“Our senior group this year is a group of guys that I have been coaching since the seventh grade,” said Coach Brewer. “Jared and Michael came in for their senior year and both played pivotal roles throughout the season. Sean, Mason, and Rickey have been with us when our program was probably at its lowest point and they have been with us when it was at its highest point. No matter the type of season, those guys gave me everything they had every game and I am very thankful for all the effort that not only the seniors gave me, but each individual player as well.”
MHS 004 010 1 —6
BHS 430 003 x —10
MHS Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Conley 1-1-0-0, DeAtley 3-0-0-0, Frost 3-1-0-0, Thornburg 4-2-1-1, Applegate 3-1-0-0, Stricklett 2-0-1-1, Kaige Cox 3-0-0-0, Calvert 0-0-0-0, Rickett 0-1-0-0, Kaulen cox 1-0-1-1, Lucas 4-0-0-0, Team 24-6-3-3.
BHS Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Knotts 4-1-1-0, Davis 3-2-1-0, Counts 2-3-1-0, Miller 3-2-1-1, Sprague 3-1-1-1, Collins 4-1-2-5, Tullius 2-0-0-0, Klingler 2-0-0-0, Gilbert 2-0-0-0, Becker 2-0-0-0, Team 27-10-7-7.
MHS Pitching: Frost (L) 2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 2 K, 82 pitches
DeAtley 3.2 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3K, 69 pitches
Conley 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 4 pitches
BHS Pitching: Sprague (W) 7 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 9 BB, 4 K, 117 pitches