With the game on the line, the gas indicator was quickly sliding toward the empty mark for Greenbrier East starting pitcher Jonathan Carr Tuesday at Spartan Field. But with his team three outs from a Game 1 win in the Class AAA Region 3, Section 2 championship series, the sophomore wasn't about to turn the ball over to anybody else.
Convincing his coach that he still had enough fuel to finish the game, Carr talked his way back onto the mound, and he set the visiting Princeton Tigers down in order in the top of the seventh to close the door on a 7-4 Spartan victory and a brilliant pitching performance.
The young lefty gave up only one earned run on four hits, striking out eight Princeton hitters in seven inning of work. He walked just two and, perhaps more importantly, saved the rest of the East arms for the next two games of the series.
"I was feeling good the whole game," said Carr. "I want to be the guy that leads the team to victory, so I focused more and got it done."
Carr got all the offensive help he needed in the bottom of the fifth inning. With his team already ahead 2-1 — thanks to an RBI single from Frank Ford and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Nathaniel Byers in the second inning that put the Spartans (18-5) ahead 2-0 before Princeton scored an unearned run in the top of the fifth — Princeton starter Ian Southcott ran into trouble due to control issues.
With two outs and Josiah Solak on first with a single, Southcott walked back-to-back hitters to load the bases and give the Spartans some hope.
Carr took full advantage of the opportunity, helping himself with a two-out single to left field that scored two runs and put East ahead 4-1. Daylon Colley followed with the backbreaker, a 3-run homer that just missed the scoreboard and nearly took out a pickup truck windshield behind the right field wall.
The 7-1 lead was too much for Princeton (10-17) to overcome.
The Tigers scored three runs — two unearned — in a wild sixth inning that included two wild pitches and a balk. The only earned run came on a Brett Wall RBI single, but Carr pitched out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.
That was the Tigers' last real threat as they finished the game without a single extra-base hit. Southcott, who finished 2 for 4, was the only Princeton hitter with multiple hits in the contest.
"We just didn't hit," said Princeton head coach Joshua Wilburn. "We had a lot of strikeouts, and then timely hitting just wasn't there. They spotted us three runs (in the sixth) off (some mistakes). If it wasn't for those few runs that kept us in the game, we really didn't do anything at all."
East, on the other hand, got a big night from Colley, who finished 2 for 2 at the plate, including the big blast.
"We were mentally focused, and we came out of the gate ready to play," said first-year Spartan head coach Scott Vogelsong. "(Carr) has been solid all year long. He has a few different pitches, and he can come after batters or work around them. We got good defense, and that helps, as well. We played together as a team."
After the game both coaches were preaching the same message, reminding their team that its a three-game series, with Game 2 back in Princeton today at 6:30 p.m.
"Princeton is a quality team and a quality program," said Vogelsong. "They actually beat us the first game of the season. We're going down to their place, and we need to stay tough and focused. They're going to come out ever harder."
"We can't go in thinking we're going to win just because we won today," agreed Carr. "Last year we 10-run ruled them the first game and then lost the game right after that (as Princeton came back to win the series). We just have to stay focused."
On the other side, Wilburn was also thinking back to last year's series.
"Kids want to make it tough on themselves and beat themselves up, but it's a three-game series," said the Tiger coach. "They 10-runned us last year in the first game, and we were able to come back and scrap out two wins. That's the beauty of a three-game series, you get to see a lot of pitching, and hopefully that allows your bats to come around."
— E-mail: email@example.com / @CamHuffmanRH.
Princeton..................000 013 0 — 4 4 2
Greenbrier East........020 050 x — 7 6 2
P: Ian Southcott, Michael Rotenberry (6) and Brett Wall. GE: Jonathan Carr and Josiah Solak; WP: Carr; LP: Southcott. Hitting — P: Ian Southcott 2-4, Andrew Wilson 1-3, Brett Wall 1-3 (RBI). GE: Colby Johnson 1-2, Jonathan Carr 1-3 (2 RBIs), Daylon Colley 2-2 (HR 3 RBIs), Frank Ford 1-3 (RBI).
Records: GE: 18-5; P: 10-17