It was small ball at the plate, and Caleb Brown on the mound.
That combination proved to be the right combination for James Monroe to claim a 4-3 win over PikeView on a sunny Friday evening at PikeView High School.
These clubs will be joined by Bluefield for the sectional tournament in less than a month, and James Monroe head coach John Mustain is excited for what lies ahead.
“I would love to be a fan and watch this sectional,” Mustain said. “I think this is going to be a good sectional between us and them and Bluefield and I think it is open to any of us. It is just a matter of who is going to be hot at the time.”
James Monroe (4-3) hit exactly three balls out of the infield against PikeView starter Zach Meadows, but two were for hits, and the Mavericks pushed across the winning run on a dribbler by Brown that barely went five feet from home plate.
“The boys really battled, they were struggling there for a while, not to say that when we got the four runs that we crushed the ball,” said Mustain, whose Mavericks had five hits, with three coming in the deciding sixth. “Derrick Honaker had a huge hit there to knock in a couple of runs.
“I was really tickled with the way they played.”
PikeView (7-6), which left eight runners in scoring position in the game, was able to rally for three runs in the seventh and had two men on base with two outs when Brown won an eight-pitch marathon and struck out Kevin Cottle on a called third strike.
“You go back and give him the credit, but the runners that we left on second and third, you have to give Caleb the credit,” PikeView head coach Josh Wyatt said. “When adversity hit, he stepped up and pitched and his defense made plays behind him.”
Brown threw 127 pitches in seven innings on the mound, allowing eight hits and three runs, striking out seven and walking three.
“I felt good, but I just let too many slip by and let it get it a little too close for comfort,” said Brown, who had runners on base in six of seven innings, and runners in scoring position in four of those. “I put my trust in my team, if I don’t get the strikeout I know my defense will be there to get it.”
Meadows was equal to Brown through five innings, with both teams putting up zeroes. PikeView had chances, with a runner on third with no outs in the third, a runner on third with one out in the sixth and bases loaded with two outs in the fourth.
James Monroe, which did commit two errors, was aided by catcher Ryan Page, who nailed two runners trying to steal bases, and the Mavericks also turned a double play.
“It is tough, but give all credit to Caleb. Caleb came in and did his thing, and Page has got to have a lot of credit, he kept us honest at first and he took three of our runs off base,” Wyatt said. “We played for the big inning and it just so happened the seventh was a big one.
“Going back we had all kinds of opportunities, we left eight runners counting that last inning in scoring position, not just on base, but in scoring position.”
James Monroe, which rarely hit the ball hard, started its winning rally in the sixth on a misplayed ball in the infield off the bat of Levi Canterbury.
“I am very confident in our pitching staff,” Wyatt said. “Zach pitched great, we let one misplayed ball there kind of take the fight out of us just for a minute and we have been so good at letting that go.”
Ryan Wickline followed by reaching on an infield single between first and second, and Reed McNeer loaded the bases with a perfect bunt down the third base line.
“We played Woodrow (Wilson) the other day and hit a lot of balls right at people and sometimes we will turn around and flare one somewhere and get on base,” Mustain said. “It is just baseball, it is just the way it is.”
Page followed with a slow roller toward PikeView first baseman Austin Cordell, but his throw home was late to get courtesy runner Josh Dransfield.
“We have been struggling the first few innings and we haven’t been getting base hits,” Brown said. “Today we got the contact, but we just couldn’t get it where we wanted to get it. We just managed to squeeze by.”
Meadows struck out cleanup batter Cory Lilly, and Honaker followed with an opposite single to right field for the 3-0 lead. Brown then welcomed new pitcher Kevin Cottle with a cue shot in front of the plate, and courtesy runner Tyler Moore beat the throw from Cottle to catcher Hunter Moses.
“Those balls weren’t hit out of the infield, and they beat them out,” Wyatt said. “They found spots in the infield.”
PikeView finally got on the board in the seventh, with the first four batters reaching, including a walk to Carter Shrewsbury and singles from Jon Clark, Keian Lee and an RBI single by Jordan Hardin.
All eyes looked toward Mustain in front of the James Monroe dugout, but he took Brown’s word that he was just fine.
“He is our number one pitcher so it is hard to take him out,” Mustain said. “There are 10 million theories on pitch counts and we try to watch it the first few weeks of the season, but it is getting down where we have 15 games left over the next three weeks.
“It is getting to the point where we are going to have to try and get two games out of him each week...He said his arm felt great and he pitched well.”
Moses drove in a second run with a sacrifice fly to right field, and then Wyatt sent Hardin on an attempted steal of second. Lee was able to score from third to narrow the margin to 4-3, but Hardin was nailed on a disputed play at second base on a perfect throw from Page.
“That was the tying run if we could him there,” Wyatt said. “They had done rolled two on us once, I felt like if we could get the tying run there, we would have been OK, and I would have done it again.”
PikeView still didn’t give up, which didn’t surprise Brown at all.
“It was definitely hard, but I believe we powered back at the end,” Brown said. “They definitely didn’t want to lay down and die for us, but it was definitely a good game for PikeView and for us too.
“It is really good getting a sectional win.”
Ryan Roberts would reach on one of two James Monroe errors, and Cordell followed with a walk. That was followed by an epic conflict between Brown and Cottle, who fouled off four straight balls before being retired on a called third strike on the eighth pitch from Brown.
“Zach (Meadows) pitched a whale of a game, but I told these kids right here you have got to give them credit for coming back,” Mustain said.
Cordell had the only multi-hit game, collecting a triple and single for PikeView. Honaker had two RBIs for the Mavericks.
Both teams have busy schedules ahead, with James Monroe visiting Bluefield on Tuesday, while PikeView will play twice today against Greenbrier West and Nicholas County.
“After tomorrow in the next three weeks we have 15 games, but everybody else does too,” Mustain said. “Everybody is in the same boat.”
Sectionals are slated to begin on May 6, and Mustain is excited for an event that will include the Mavericks, Panthers, and the Beavers, who have replaced Summers County in Region III, Section 2 this season.
“It is going to be a fun tournament,” Mustain said. “I may just let (assistant) Nick (Newberry) coach and I will sit in the stands and watch, that is how good it is going to be.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at PikeView High School
James Monroe...................000 004 0 — 4 5 2
PikeView............................000 000 3 — 3 8 1
Caleb Brown and Ryan Page. Zach Meadows, Kevin Cottle (6) and Hunter Moses. W—Brown; L—Meadows. HR—none.