By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
UC had CU down six runs in the third inning.
Concord had Charleston right where they wanted them.
Josh Wenger’s two-run single in the bottom of the fifth inning allowed the Mountain Lions to rally from a six-run deficit, and Chris Baker brought quality relief on the mound, leading Concord to a 7-6 West Virginia Conference victory over the Golden Eagles on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Anderson Field.
Concord (18-15, 13-6) dropped a 7-3 decision in the second game of the twinbill, but the Mountain Lions grinded out a win in the opener after trailing 5-0 in the first inning, and 6-0 in the third.
“I am proud of our guys for the work that they did to put them in the situation to not only get back in the game,” Concord head coach Andrew Wright said, “but put ourselves in the position where we are winning and then to finish it because that is what we have been having a problem with here lately.”
While Concord has struggled at times on the mound this season, hitting hasn’t been an issue. The Mountain Lions entered the game second in the WVIAC with a .344 team batting average so they are never out of a game.
“Absolutely, all year long it has worked out good,” Baker said. “Give us time, as long as our pitchers can keep our hitters in the game, we will come back and we will always capitalize on that.”
Charleston (12-17, 9-9) hit just one ball hard off Ryan Weatherholtz in the first, a scorching double to the left field fence by Igor Molina, but the Golden Eagles took advantage of two errors, a leadoff walk and three infield singles to take a 5-0 lead before the Lions came to the plate.
Another run crossed in the third on an error by Wenger and a two-out double from Anthony Burnetti to increase the lead to 6-0, but the Mountain Lions never gave up hope.
“You have to stay the course and not try to do too much,” Wenger said. “We have been in that situation a lot this year unfortunately, but when we have we have been able to come back in those situations and play well enough to get the win. That is all that matters in the end.”
Charleston, which out-hit Concord 9-5 — including a hit by every player in the lineup — would get just three hits and five baserunners from the third inning on off Weatherholtz and Baker, who took the mound with two runners on and one out in the fifth.
“(Baker) is the perfect guy for that situation because he is such a shut down guy,” Wright said. “Give him the ball and you can expect that when the dust settles he is going to give you his best effort.”
That is why Concord still felt confident in coming out on top, scoring three runs on one hit in the third and narrowing the margin to 6-4 with doubles by Ryan Johnston and T.J. Broadway in the fourth off Charleston southpaw Josh Weinberg.
“We certainly do, and that is why we stuck with Ryan as much as we did,” Wright said. “He is one of our biggest competitors on the mound and I know he is going to give us his best effort.
“As soon as we got back into the game, job number one was getting our best reliever on the mound and that is what Baker did.”
Baker walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but then stranded those runners with a strikeout and fly ball, and wound up getting the win.
“Throw strikes,” said Baker, on his approach in that situation. “Coach preaches that all year, getting ahead of hitters, staying ahead of hitters and putting them away and that is pretty much what we did right there.”
That was followed by the deciding frame, with Weinberg walking Devin Smith, which forced Charleston to bring in Jake Ciolfi from the bullpen.
Bret Blevins greeted him with a double, but Ciolfi struck out cleanup batter Joey Miller, Joe Camp hit a sacrifice fly to narrow the margin to 6-5. Ryan Johnston was then plunked by a pitch to bring up Wenger, whose error way back in the third had led to the Eagles’ sixth run.
“You don’t want to try to do too much, just go back and do your job and get the next one, that is really all you can do,” said Wenger, whose Mountain Lions won despite five errors in the game. “If you try to go out and try to do too much at the plate you strike out or pop up, you just have to stay the course and do your job.”
He did, punching a single into center field to put the Lions up to stay, which didn’t surprise Wright at all.
“He has been out for a little while and you can place some of it to that, but Wenger is one of the best shortstops in the country in my opinion because of his athleticism,” Wright said. “He may have made that mistake there, but you saw the play he made that saved another baserunner.
“It was tit for tat and he goes out offensively and does what he does.”
An error by Wenger gave the Eagles a runner with one out in the seventh, but Josh Easterling followed with a bloop over Wenger’s head at short. The senior fought the sunny sky and made a tumbling catch while falling backwards and held the ball in his glove.
“I actually lost it in the sun for a while, it stayed in the sun for 3 or 4 seconds and I just kept looking at it,” said Wenger, whose Lions secured the win when Brunetti popped out to end the game. “I knew where that ball was at, it wasn’t hit too far and I stayed with and finally saw it and got a glove on it and made it work and we were able to pull out the win.”
Concord out-hit Charleston 11-9 in the nightcap, but the Golden Eagles scored five runs in the sixth, sparked by a three-run double from Ryan Foster, who also had a solo home run in the third.
Tyler Shreve earned the win, allowing nine hits, but just one unearned in sixth innings on the mound.
Smith had a two-run home run in the seventh for Concord. Smith, Camp and Andrew Siegel had two hits each, while Tyler Coyle suffered the loss on the mound.
Concord entered the game in third place in the WVIAC South Division, but Wright isn’t too worried about those numbers just yet.
“It is too early to really put a lot of stock into the standings...,” said Wright, whose Mountain Lions host Charleston today at 1 p.m. “We feel like we are in pretty good shape moving forward, but moving forward doesn’t matter anymore, it is about the ones that are left.”
Charleston........................501 000 0 — 6 9 1
Concord............................003 130 x — 7 5 5
Josh Weinberg, Jake Ciolfi (5) and Igor Molina. Ryan Weatherholtz, Chris Baker (5) and T.J. Broadway. W—Baker; L—Ciolfi. HR—none.
Charleston......................001 015 0 — 7 9 3
Concord..........................000 010 2 — 3 11 1
Tyler Shreve, Patrick Chiaramonte (7) and Sage Iacovone. Tyler Coyle, Tim Leather (6) and T.J. Broadway. W—Shreve; L—Coyle. HR—Ryan Foster (UC), Devin Smith (CU).