By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Hold the opposition down with good pitching and solid defense, and then break open the game late with the bats.
That prescription worked to perfection for PikeView on Thursday afternoon, as the Panthers opened Region III, Section 3 tournament play with a 7-2 win over Bluefield at PikeView High School.
Kevin Cottle scattered four hits over six innings, and Zach Meadows, Ryan Roberts and Hunter Moses all doubled in a six-run sixth, as the Panthers beat the Beavers for a third time this season.
“This is big, it gets everybody pumped, gets all the boys fired up to come out and get this next win,” Cottle said. “I feel great, I am just hyped about everything.”
PikeView (20-10) later defeated James Monroe 8-1 to advance to the championship game tonight against either Bluefield (10-16) or James Monroe (7-15), who will play an elimination game today at Bowen Field.
Bluefield head coach Justin Gilbert wasn’t ready to panic just yet, recalling that Wyoming East lost in its first sectional game last season, and wound up as Class AA state champions.
“I know in our sectional last year Wyoming East lost the first game of the sectional right in front of us and they went on to never lose again and that is just a mindset,” Gilbert said. “All this game did for us was give us an opportunity to play more baseball.
“It made the road a little harder, but that is why we play double-elimination.”
Cottle and Bluefield’s Trevor Mullins were deadlocked in an early pitcher’s duel before the Panthers got on the board in the fourth when Cottle was plunked in the helmet by a pitch. He stole second, and eventually scored on a ground ball out by Jon Clark.
“It is big, any time you get a run up on the board, you can be a little slack, you have one run you can give up,” Cottle said. “Fortunately that run kept us going until we got the sticks going finally.”
Bluefield had just four hits through six innings, and just one runner got as far as second base off Cottle, who improved to 8-0 against West Virginia schools with an ERA under 1.00. He struck out five and walked none.
“He has been on, he worked ahead early today, he dictated what pitches they were hitting, he was very familiar with the kids and Kevin dominated today,” PikeView head coach Josh Wyatt said. “I don’t think they got a runner past second base on him all day.”
PikeView also made just one miscue in the field, which helped Cottle keep the Beavers off the board.
“I don’t think we had an error one out there,” Cottle said. “They came up and stepped up and played good.”
PikeView finally got to Mullins in the sixth, collecting five hits and taking advantage of two Bluefield errors, which is exactly what Cottle was counting on.
“We have been hitting late in the innings pretty good,” Cottle said. “I figured I would just hold them off and get some things going late.”
Cottle drove in a run with a single, Meadows and Roberts had RBI doubles, and Hunter Moses brought in two more runs with a double of his own, putting the Panthers up 7-0.
“One-0, 2-0, 3-0, you always feel like the comeback is there, but we booted around a few and then gave them that double to left-center and before you know it it was seven,” Gilbert said.
Cottle was replaced in the seventh by Jordan Hardin, and the Beavers got consecutive singles from Marcus Santoro, Mullins and an RBI-base hit by Christian Oster, followed by a sacrifice fly from Justin Carter.
Mullins and Hardin each had two hits for their respective teams.
“You are not going to win many games if you don’t score. We had a tough time early hitting balls right at people, he kept us off-balanced, I felt like we took a lot of early pitches and he got ahead,” Gilbert said. “We knew that coming in, he does a good job of getting ahead and when he does it is hard on you.
“We took some pitches early and got behind in the count and it showed. We struggled to get runners on and that was pretty evident throughout the game.”
Cottle and the Panthers were just glad to get back on the diamond after three previous days of the sectional tournament had been washed out by rain.
“We have been driving Coach crazy,” said Cottle, with a laugh. “Every day when we see him at school, we are asking ‘When are going to play Coach, when are we getting back out on the field.’”
It was worth the wait.
—Contact Brian Woodson
at PikeView High School
Bluefield...........................000 000 2 — 2 7 2
PikeView...........................000 106 x — 7 7 1
Trevor Mullins, Cody Goins (6) and Logan Lineberry. Kevin Cottle, Jordan Hardin (7) and Hunter Moses. W—Cottle; L—Mullins. HR—none.