CENTENARY, Ohio — Some things are worth the wait.
It took a dozen innings, but the Gallia Academy baseball team became the first program since league play started in 1941 to ever win four consecutive Southeastern Ohio Athletic League championships Friday night following a hard-fought 2-1 victory over visiting Portsmouth at Bob Eastman Ball Field in Gallia County.
The host Blue Devils (10-3, 7-1 SEOAL) earned at least a share of the 2014 crown with their extra-innings triumph, but the Trojans (1-5 SEOAL) did everything in their power to prevent GAHS from making history at their expense.
Both teams had 43 at-bats apiece in the contest and each squad left at least a dozen runners stranded on base in the 12-inning affair. PHS left 12 runners on the bags, while the hosts stranded 14 in the contest.
The game was scoreless through four innings of play, then both squads broke into the scoring column with a run in the fifth — which led to the one-all tie that ensued throughout the evening.
GAHS, however, caught its big break in the bottom of the 12th as the hosts loaded the bases without giving up an out. Gage Childers started the game-winning rally with a single, then advanced to second after Gustin Graham reached safely on an error.
Anthony Sipple followed with a bloop single that loaded the bases, then Seth Wills smacked a fly ball to straight away centerfield for the only out of the frame. Childers tagged from third on the catch and slid safely into home plate for the game-clincher, which sparked a pile-on celebration for the Blue Devils.
Jackson — which claimed an 11-0 win over Logan Friday night — is the only team that can still share this year’s SEOAL title with GAHS. The Ironmen (5-1 SEOAL) still have a home-and-home series to complete with Warren next week.
Friday’s victory secured the fifth SEOAL championship for 11th-year Gallia Academy skipper Rich Corvin, as well as the program’s 14th overall. Only Athens, with 24, has more baseball championships in league history.
Corvin spoke afterwards about the significance of this four-peat and how much effort went into making it a reality. He also shared nothing but praise for his counterparts from Scioto County.
“Wins are wins, rather they go five innings, seven innings or 12 innings — and we’ll take them any way we can get them. There is no easy win for us because we get everybody’s best effort due to the success that we’ve had over the last few years,” Corvin said. “I do want to say that my hat goes off to those guys at Portsmouth because they were ready tonight and gave us everything they had.”
PHS took its only lead of the night in the top of the fifth after Tanner Poage started things with a two-out triple, then Poage scored one batter later after Ryan Williams singled for a 1-0 contest.
Gallia Academy countered in the bottom of the fifth with a one-out single from Matt Bailey, who then stole second and advanced to third on an overthrow. Childers lifted a fly ball to right center for the second out of the inning, but Bailey tagged and scored to knot things up at one after five complete.
Portsmouth left runners in scoring position in every inning except the seventh, eighth and 10th frames, while the hosts stranded runners in scoring position in every inning except the third, eighth and 11th. GAHS also left the bases loaded with one out in the sixth.
The Blue Devils — who are 36-4 in SEOAL play over the last four seasons — outhit the guests by an 11-8 overall margin and committed two errors in the contest, compared to three errors by the Trojans.
Gustin Graham — a Miami of Ohio signee — was the winning pitcher of record after allowing no runs, four hits and two walks over seven innings of relief while striking out 13. Marcus Moore started for the hosts and allowed one earned run and four hits over five frames while fanning five.
Ryan Williams suffered the setback after allowing one run and four hits over 2.1 innings of relief. Starter Brandon Wedebrook lasted nine innings and allowed one run, seven hits and three walks while striking out three in the no-decision.
Anthony Sipple led the Blue Devils with three hits, followed by Childers, Bailey and Kole Carter with two safeties apiece. Ty Warnimont and Eric Sheets also had a hit each for the victors. Childers and Wills each drove in a run, while Childers and Bailey each scored once.
Williams led PHS with two hits and had an RBI, while Wedebrook, Poage, Sky Oliver, Hunter Gibson, Jacob Albrecht and Austin Mullins contributed a safety apiece in the setback. Poage scored the lone run for the guests.
Corvin is proud to see how far his program has come in a little over a decade of work, but he also noted that the next two weeks can determine a lot in getting ready for the second season. The venerable mentor is hoping that his troops won’t rest now that they have at least a share of a league title in hand.
“The year before I got here, this program didn’t win a league game. To think that we’ve won five (league titles) in the last 11 years and four in a row is remarkable. It’s off the charts,” Corvin said. “I’m really happy for these guys, particularly these seniors, for what they’ve been able to accomplish so far this season.
“We’ll enjoy this one, but now we have to spend the rest of the regular season getting ourselves ready for the tournament. We can’t be content with what we’ve done just yet.”
Besides the current run from 2011 until this spring, Gallia Academy also clinched SEOAL championships in 1941, 1945, 1949, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1967, 1969, 1985 and 2006.