By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Hunter Moses lifted a sacrifice fly to left field in the top of the eighth inning to score Ryan Roberts, while Carter Shewsbury and Keian Lee each made game-saving catches in the bottom of the eighth to lead the PikeView Panthers to a 5-4 win over the Bluefield Beavers, Thursday night at Ritchie Field.
“Our defense is stepping up huge,” said PikeView coach Josh Wyatt. “Two freshmen outfielders out there, it’s like ‘Angels in the Outfield.’ They want the ball. Those are the type of kids who make the plays, the ones who want the ball.”
Bluefield coach Justin Gilbert said, “My hat is off to PikeView, they earned it. Three diving catches in the outfield, those would have been doubles or triples and it would have been a different game. They earned it.”
It was a home game for the Beavers, being played on the Panthers turf, so it was Bluefield in the field first. Trevor Mullins sat PikeView down one-two-three thanks to Bluefied catcher Randy Maxey gunning down Austin Cordell attempting to steal second after receiving a walk, ending the PV first.
After going down in order in the bottom of the first, Bluefield got the scoring started in the second. Logan Lineberry led off with a walk and Christian Oster got a one-out double off the fence in right to score Lineberry with the game’s first run against Panther pitcher Zac Meadows. Justin Carter picked up a two-out single to put runners on the corners. Carter swiped second base and then Maxey singled home both runners to give the Beavers a 3-0 lead.
PikeView answered in the top of the third. Shrewsbury hit a Texas League bloop double to left and a Bluefield throwing error allowed Keian Lee to reach and go to second while Shrewsbury scored. Moses rapped a double to center that scored Lee and Austin Cordell followed with a walk. Kevin Cottle’s single to left put Panthers on first and second before Cordell stole third. With two out in the inning and runners on the corners, the Panthers executed a double steal with Cottle taking second and Cordell scampering home as the throw to second failed to nab Cottle for the third out of the inning. That run gave PikeView a 4-3 lead.
“We’ve been slow out of the gate lately, seems like somebody has to punch us for us to get going,” Wyatt said. “If we can change that up a little bit we’re going to be a hard out come tournament time, which I am not looking forward to. I don’t think my nerves can handle the sectional. I don’t think there is a tougher section in AA.”
Bluefield came back with a run in the fourth to tie things. Maxey reached when his tapper back to Meadows was thrown down the right field line. Maxey ended up at second and tied the game when Justin Mariotti singled to right.
The game remained knotted at four as defense and pitching took over for both teams. Meadows pitched five innings, giving way to Cottle to open the sixth. Cottle proceeded to sit the Beavers down in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
Meanwhile for Bluefield, Mullins remained strong on the mound. PikeView got two runners on in the fifth and two in the seventh but could not push the go-ahead run across. Lineberry took the ball for Bluefield in the seventh and Roberts worked him to a full count before drawing a walk. Shrewsbury followed with another full-count walk and Lee had an infield single to load the bases with no outs.
Enter Moses into the batting box where he hit a 1-0 pitch high to left field. Carter circled, made the catch and fired the ball plateward, but it was too late as Roberts touched home with the go-ahead run.
Bluefield had one last chance in the bottom of the seventh against Cottle. Lineberry drew a full-count walk. Justin Lightfoot then drilled what appeared to be a sure double, possibly a triple to center. Shrewsbury got on his horse and with his back turned to the infield dove and made a spectacular catch for the first out of the inning.
“That was a senior-type of play and he’s a freshman,” Wyatt said. “I’ll be grinning for four years having him out in center field and Keian, who is another freshman, out in left. They are going to make plays every time they suit up.”
Oster, already with a double in the game, then drove a line drive to the gap in left-center where Lee made another game-saving catch for the Panthers.
The Beavers were still alive and fighting when Cody Goins singled to left-center, sending Lineberry to third and on the throw, Goins, representing the winning run, went to second.
Bluefield, still with a glimmer of hope, saw Carter work Cottle to a full count before the PikeView hurler pushed a fastball past the Beavers’ left fielder for a swinging strike three to end the game.
“Over the last couple of games we’re having these innings early,” Gilbert said. “We’re scoring two, three and four early in the game and then it seems like we’re going on cruise control and just hoping our pitcher can win it for us. We got three in the third and we didn’t have any life until the eighth. That’s mental and it’s my job to fix that.”
In addition to earning the pitching victory, tossing three innings and giving up one hit, no runs and fanning four Beavers, Cottle was 4-for-4 at the plate for PikeView. Meadows had two hits for the Panthers and on the mound he pitched five frames, gave up four runs on seven hits and struck out five.
Lineberry, in one inning of action, suffered the defeat as he allowed one run on one hit and struck out one. Mullins pitched seven innings, allowed four runs on 10 hits and struck out five.
“I couldn’t ask for any more (from Mullins),” Gilbert said. “We had that bad inning, but over the course of seven he worked himself out of james and he was a pitcher tonight. The one bad inning hurt us, but you couldn’t ask for more. He located both pitches and we should have won the game for him.”
Lightfoot had two hits for the Beavers and Maxey had two RBIs.
Bluefield returns to action today in the opening round of the Coppinger Tournament against Montcalm at Bowen Field. First pitch is set for 5 o’clock. PikeView next plays on Saturday in the Coppinger Tournament against River View in Tazewell. Game time is 1 p.m.
At Ritchie Field
PikeView......................004 000 01 — 5 11 1
Bluefield......................030 100 00 — 4 8 1
Meadows, Cottle (6) and Moses. Mullins, Lineberry (8) and Maxey. W-Cottle, L-Lineberry