ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — Marauders win the sectional title in the battle of champions.
The Meigs baseball team — which shared the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division championship for the second straight spring — won its fifth sectional title in the last six seasons, on Thursday evening in Meigs County, as the second-seeded Marauders claimed a 3-0 victory over seventh-seeded Gallia Academy, which won the Ohio Valley Conference championship in their first year in the eight-team league.
The Blue Devils (16-10) — who have won four sectional crowns over the last six seasons — put a pair of runners on base with one out in the top of the opening inning, but an infield-fly and a strikeout let the Marauders (21-6) escape unscathed.
After retiring MHS in order in the bottom of the first, GAHS had back-to-back one-out singles in the top of the second. However, a strikeout and a ground-out to the second baseman stranded both Blue Devil runners.
MHS junior Cody Bartrum led off the bottom of the second with a single, and then advanced to third base on a pair of passed balls. Bartrum scored on a sacrifice-fly by Luke Musser, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the third, Anthony Sipple doubled and advanced to third base with one out in the frame. GAHS stranded Sipple on third, however, as a 6-3 ground-out and a fly-out to right field ended the inning.
MHS junior K.J. Tracy was hit by a pitch to start the home half of the third, and he advanced to second base on a sac-bunt by Christian Mattox. The Marauders couldn’t expand on their one-run lead, however, as a fly-out to right field and a ground-out to second base ended the frame.
Blue Devils senior Ryan Terry singled to start the top of the fourth inning, and he advanced to second on a sac-bunt by John Stout. Terry made it to third base on a passed ball, but a 4-3 ground-out and a strikeout kept GAHS at a 1-0 disadvantage.
The hosts had another opportunity to add on in the top of fourth, as Layne Acree was hit by a pitch, stole second base and advanced to third base on a ground-out. However, a fly-out to left field retired the side and kept Meigs’ lead at 1-0.
In the top of the fifth, GAHS put a runner in scoring position with no outs, as Kole Carter was hit by a pitch and then stole second base. With one out in the frame, Meigs intentionally walked Sipple, putting runners on first and second. The Marauders’ plan worked, as they ended the inning with an unconventional 9-5-6 double-play on the next at-bat.
GAHS senior pitcher Marcus Moore struck out two of the first three batters in the bottom of the fifth, but Tracy reached safely on an error. Next, MHS senior Kaileb Sheets singled to right field, allowing Tracy to advance to third on the play.
The Blue Devils attempted a pick-off play to first base, but Sheets advance safely to second base. Meanwhile, Tracy broke for home and slide in safely, just in front of the GAHS tag, putting Meigs on top 2-0. In the same at-bat, Chase Whitlatch singled to the outfield, plating Sheets and making the MHS lead 3-0.
The Blue Devils got out of the fifth inning without allowing any more damage, but — after a base on balls to start the sixth frame — GAHS grounded into a fielder’s choice, struck out and grounded out to the pitcher, on consecutive at-bats.
Acree singled to lead off the Marauder sixth, but three straight ground-outs ended the frame. GAHS was retired in order in the top of the seventh, as Meigs sealed the 3-0 sectional final victory and their second consecutive trip to the Division II district tournament.
“Coach Corvin does a great job with the kids down there, he has a great program and I knew they were going to give us their best,” sixth-year Marauders head coach Brent Bissell said. “I’m real happy for our kids and the way they played. Chase Whitlatch did a phenomenal job on the mound for us, we had some crucial hits at right time, and that’s what it takes come tournament time.”
Whitlatch pitched a complete game shutout for the Marauders, allowing five hits and four free passes, while striking out seven batters.
“Whitlatch is pretty daggone good,” 13th-year GAHS head coach Rich Corvin said. “We were trying to get him off sequence, stepping out of the box, but he controlled the game. Not only with balls and strikes, but he controlled the tempo of the game, too.”
The losing pitcher of record was Moore, who allowed three runs, one earned, on four hits and three free passes. Moore pitched a complete game and struck out two Marauders.
“We had a great pitching performance by Marcus (Moore),” Corvin said. “Against that good of a team, he pitched well enough to win, and our defensive played pretty well. But, you have to hit and score runs. You’re not going to win any games with zero runs. Hats off to Meigs, they got some breaks, they put the ball in play when they needed to and got some hits when they needed to.”
The Marauders were a combined 4-for-20 from the plate, with Sheets, Whitlatch, Bartrum and Acree each singling once. Bartrum, Sheets and Tracy each scored once for Meigs, Whitlatch and Musser each had one RBI, while Acree stole one base.
The Blue Devils combined to hit 5-of-23 from the plate, led by Sipple, who was 1-for-1 with a double. Carter, Terry, John Stout and Tanner Allen each singled once, while Carter had Gallia Academy’s lone stolen base in the setback.
GAHS — which committed the game’s only error — left eight runners on base, while Meigs stranded five.
This completes the season sweep for Meigs, as the Marauders also defeated the Blue Devils in Rocksprings on March 30, by a 2-1 count in nine innings.
The Marauders end the regular season on Friday at Waterford and then Meigs will face third-seeded Circleville in Monday’s Division II district semifinal at Athens High School. The Tigers defeated sixth-seeded Logan Elm by a 14-4 count in Wednesday’s sectional final at CHS.
“Our kids’ goal is to at least get back to where they were last year,” said Bissell. “Hopefully we can build on what we did tonight, and we’ll see what happens on Monday.”
The 2015 Marauders were seeded seventh, but made it to the regional semifinal, where Big Walnut ended the MHS run with a 1-0 decision in eight innings.
This marks the final high school baseball game for Blue Devil seniors Eric Ward, Anthony Sipple, Matt Bailey, Kole Carter, Zach Graham, Ryan Terry and Marcus Moore.
“There are a lot of kids that play when they’re in junior high and there are a lot of kids that play when they are freshmen, but how many stick it out to the end,” said Corvin. “With this group, seven of them stuck it out and they’ll leave a mark on us.”
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.