By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Justin Lightfoot has a plan at the plate. It worked to perfection on Tuesday night.
The Bluefield junior reached base five times with a double, single and three walks, while also driving in two runs and scoring two more, leading the Beavers to a 21-4 victory over cross-town rival Graham on Tuesday evening at Graham Middle School.
Bluefield (8-15), which scored 10 runs in the third and nine in the sixth, will meet Graham (4-9) again tonight at Bowen Field, with the varsity game starting at 7 p.m.
“I always like to beat Graham, it is fun coming out here and beating them, but we have to come out here tomorrow and see if we can do it again,” Lightfoot said. “Tomorrow the score is 0-0.”
Lightfoot led off the second with a double, added an RBI single in the third, and then drew two walks on 3-2 counts, and another free pass on a 3-1 pitch, as the Beavers added nine more runs in the sixth.
“I just go up there and look for my pitch,” Lightfoot said. “I have a plan when I go up there, and if I don’t see it I don’t swing. You have to watch when the count is full, but I didn’t see anything I liked so I took walks.”
That is why Lightfoot is hitting in the fourth spot in the Bluefield lineup.
“Justin is one of those guys we put in that spot because he is usually patient at the plate,” Gilbert said, “He waits for his pitch, he might not always hit the ball, but he puts the ball in play and sometimes in high school that is all you need.”
Graham actually led 1-0 after two innings, but after a strong start to the season, the troubles that have haunted in the G-Men in recent weeks continued in this game.
“They had a lot of enthusiasm, but no internal leaders have stepped up on the team, we have got a few, but with an older group we are disappointed a little bit,” Dixon said. “I am going to be honest with you with how we are playing. We are minus an arm or two on the pitching staff, but early in the year we had a lot of enthusiasm and things were going our way.
“We haven’t completed the last couple of weeks.”
Graham took an early 1-0 lead on an RBI double by Jay Boone, but the Beavers sent 14 batters to the plate in a third inning that was extended by a pair of fly balls that dropped after they were possibly lost in the sun.
“I guess you could say ‘lost it in the sun’ but routine plays have killed us, and with the juniors that we have got and the experience we have got, those plays have got to be made,” Dixon said. “The last three weeks or so no leaders have really stepped up internally on the team outside of the coaches and we need some leadership.
“Those guys have played a lot of baseball and it snowballed on us a little bit...”
Bluefield collected eight hits and took advantage of two walks and an error in the third to score 10 runs, with Marcus Santoro and Cody Goins contributing two-run singles and Justin Mariotti bringing in two more with a double.
Gilbert wasn’t pleased early when the Beavers saw just seven pitches from Graham starter Jacob Simpson in the first inning, but the patience showed later on, as the G-Men committed a total of three errors and seven of 11 batters that drew walks scored runs for Bluefield.
“We took advantage of what they gave us and that is really what it is in baseball,” Gilbert said. “You are not always going to have 15 hits, we finally decided in the middle half and later in the game we were going to be a little more patient and wait on our pitch...
“It worked in our favor. We put some guys on, base hits here and there, we basically took what they gave us. There were some mistakes out in the field, we took those, and we keyed in some hits there.
“Overall I am pleased. Overall by the end we did some things right and I am pleased with the outcome.”
Graham was able to narrow the margin to 12-4 going into the sixth when the Beavers sent 14 more batters to the plate, scoring nine runs on five hits, two errors and four walks, with Jeremy Thompson driving in three runs with a bases-loaded double.
Thompson, who joined Lightfoot, Santoro, Andrew Siegel and Christian Oster with two hits each, led the Beavers with four RBIs. Siegel also drove in two runs on a pair of singles.
Seven Bluefield players scored two runs each, and the Beavers didn’t commit an error in the field. Mariotti picked up the win on the mound.
“The kids were excited to play Graham and I was too, I always enjoy coming down here and the end result I am pleased with the outcome,” Gilbert said. “Graham is going to come ready to play tomorrow. Coach Dixon does a good job and our kids realize that. We will be ready to play.”
Bluefield will host Graham and River View over the next two nights, and then begin Region 3, Section 4 play next Monday at Bowen Field.
“We have improved as the season has went on,” Lightfoot said. “Experience is a lot of it. We have definitely gotten better as the season has went on, and I think the timing is just right for the sectionals.
“I think we have all gotten better. It is a team sport and I feel like the team has gotten better overall and that is all that matters.”
Graham, which used four pitchers, had seven hits off three Bluefield hurlers, with Boone collecting two doubles and Simpson adding two singles.
The G-Men will visit Bluefield tonight, and host Galax in a doubleheader on Friday. Dixon won’t be in the dugout for the rematch with the Beavers, with his wife slated to give birth some time on Wednesday.
“Credit to them, they put the ball in play, but we made a lot of mistakes,” Dixon said. “As a pitcher you have got to throw strikes, you can’t walk people, but you have got to make routine plays to keep your pitchers’ pitch count down and we didn’t do that...
“We will have a couple of pitchers back (tonight) that will be able to pitch, but we just have to make routine plays. If you make routine plays and make the simple plays, the game is a lot easier.”
Gilbert was quick to remind his club that tonight will be a different ball game with the G-Men.
“As I told the guys, you can enjoy this, you can be happy with it, but when we start the game tomorrow it is 0-0,” Gilbert said. “They jumped out on us in the first inning 1-0.
“We took a little wind out of their sails there and it is hard to battle back when you are down like that, but tomorrow it is 0-0. It is anybody’s game and you can’t expect these results all the time.”
— Contact Brian Woodson
at Graham Middle School
Bluefield......................00(10) 119 — 21 15 0
Graham.......................101 200 — 4 7 3
Justin Mariotti, Randall Maxey (4), Cody Goins (6) and Logan Lineberry, Goins (4), Maxey (6). Jacob Simpson, Tommy Lovell (4), Josh Conley (5), Greg Rasnick (6) and Corey Monninger. W—Mariotti; L—Simpson. HR—none.