Tough day all around

CHARLESTON – Man junior left-hander Braden Griffin had as many hits as St. Marys and hurled 6 1-3 innings of three-hit ball to lead the Hillbillies to a 3-1 triumph against the Blue Devils in a Class A state semifinal Saturday night at Appalachian Power Park.

St. Marys didn’t score until the top of the sixth inning and Man fellow left-hander Ryan Adkins got losing pitcher Robbie Harper (6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO) to hit into a 5-4-3 double play to save the game as the Hillbillies advanced to the 10 a.m. Saturday title game against Notre Dame where one program will claim its first state crown.

“The defense, they played an incredible game,” said Griffin, who was credited with an RBI double to left-center which plated Tyler Blair from first in the bottom of the opening frame. Jarrod Lough tried to track the ball down in the left-field gap, but couldn’t make the play. Even though the relay throw to shortstop Michael Fox was fired to Johnny Riggs at the plate, the ball bounced and took a high hop on Riggs and Blair slid in safely for a lead Man never relinquished.

Griffin fanned the side in the first, but did allow a single to Lough and walked cleanup hitter Matt Houser. The lefty made two solid defensive plays in a 1-2-3 second and then watched first baseman Noah Maynard rob Stout of extra bases when he snared a hot shot down the line with a diving stop and then tossed it to Griffin at first.

“I want to thank all my teammates for playing such a great game behind me and they are the reason we won this game,” added Griffin, who walked five, allowed an unearned run and had six strikeouts.

It looked like St. Marys, which finished its campaign at 29-3 and lost for the first time to a single-A program, had something brewing in the fourth. Riggs rocketed a single to left and Fox followed with a walk, but Tyler Davis went down on strikes and Garrett Furr’s slow chopper was grabbed by shortstop Cameron Simpson, who raced to the bag at second to just beat the sliding Riggs and end the inning.

Griffin, who fired 107 pitches, needed just six pitches to get through the fifth and he came back out for the sixth with a 2-0 cushion. Kenny Jo Adkins, Man’s No. 9 hitter, reached on a bloop single with one out in the fifth when a diving effort by Fox wasn’t quite good enough and the ball just glanced off his webbing. With two outs, Blair had the key run-scoring single up the middle.

The Blue Devils finally dented the scoreboard in the sixth when Lough singled to left, scurried to third on a two-base fielding error and scored on Riggs’ RBI groundout.

Although the now 20-12 Hillbillies didn’t need an insurance run they got one anyway in the sixth. Maynard reached with one out on a fielder’s choice and later scored via a wild pitch.

In the seventh, Davis drew an eight-pitch base on balls to start the inning, which marked Griffin’s 99th pitch. However, Furr’s at-bat was cut short when he fouled a pitch down the line. As it turned out, Man right fielder Baley Beckwith tripped over the bullpen mound and as he was falling managed to catch the ball mere inches from the ground. After Griffin walked Stout on pitch No. 107, he was lifted for Ryan Adkins, who got the double play on his second pitch.

“They made two or three great plays against us and we didn’t hit the ball as well as I thought we’d hit it,” said SMHS skipper Ed Wilson, whose squad stranded six runners and went hitless in six chances with runners in scoring position. “That’s basically what our strong point was, putting the ball into play, getting the hits and our pitching.

“The pitching was there tonight. Robbie pitched a good game, but we left guys in scoring position. That’s how it goes. I hate to see it end like this, but we played a good team and they have a good team. They robbed us of a couple two or three hits that could’ve made the difference in the game.”