By JONATHAN GREENE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The extra time off thanks to Mother Nature must have been a plus for Greenbrier East. It certainly didn’t help Princeton.
After rain postponed the start of the series from Tuesday to Thursday, it was the Spartans (15-8) who looked sharp and took game one with a convincing 11-0 victory in five innings at Hunnicutt Field.
“That’s always huge,” Greenbrier East head coach Eric Morgan said. “Playing Princeton, they’re well coached. That’s what happened to us last year. They came out swinging.
“We’ve got a good group of seniors and they wanted to do the same thing. They had a sour taste in their mouth from day one. I’m happy for that.”
The game was scoreless through two innings although the Tigers (15-10) had the bases loaded in the bottom of the second.
Addison Wood singled to start the inning then Josh Perry ripped a single to left. Will Hickman reached on an error by East third baseman James Utterback. Ryan Windon weathered the storm though by getting Nick Janutolo to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“The biggest thing as far as timely hitting was we were anxious,” Princeton head coach Josh Wilburn commented. “We were a little anxious thinking we’ve got to the first good pitch instead of working the count and getting better pitches to hit. We were hitting balls straight into double plays real early in the count.”
It was the top of the third where everything started to go wrong for Princeton.
Ben Lovett led the inning of with a single then Talmon Hylton reached on an error. Bo Williams walked Jacob Frantz to load the bases. Utterback hit an RBI infield single and Josh Zeboskey followed with another RBI single to make it 2-0.
R.J. Massie added two more runs with a single to left field to give the Spartans a big 4-0 lead with no out.
Williams control problems persisted with a walk to Harrison Martin and a hitter batter. His day ended when Colby Johnson hit a two-run single making it 7-0.
“It’s tough,” Wilburn said. “When you get to sectionals, anything can happen. I still feel like we’re a better baseball team, but they played a better game.
“It was very uncharacteristic of Williams to go out and give up that many runs. We just didn’t execute a bunt earlier in the game. We didn’t execute on a play there at second that kind of started the rally in the third.
“They just did everything right.”
Wilburn made the switch to Bryce Peek and Peek hit his first batter. He would settle down getting a fielder’s choice and a double play to end the inning.
But the damage was done.
“It was exciting,” Morgan said. “Most high school games are won in one inning. When a pitcher struggles, you have to execute.
“That’s what we’ve been working on all season – taking advantage of opportunities. Our job is to work hard and move the runners. They came up big.”
The Tigers problems were mainly self-inflicted.
Williams walked two batters and hit two others. Peek threw a wild pitch and also hit a batter while the Princeton defense was charged with two errors.
Princeton never really challenged the rest of the game. They had two runners on in the fourth, but left the runners stranded.
Greenbrier East added four more runs in the fifth to seal the victory.
The Spartans had 12 hits led by two each from Utterback, Zeboskey, Massie, Colby Johnson and Ben Lovett.
Bryson Allen went 3-for-3 for Princeton who was limited to six hits by Greenbrier East starter Ryan Windon.
The Tigers still had a chance in the nightcap to keep the series alive. Friday’s game is scheduled to be played in Fairlea.
“It’s nice to have a best of three, because it really makes you dig deep into your bullpen,” Wilburn said. “It really shows the depth of your team. We do have a decent bullpen and we have a team that can play.
“With these young kids coming to play once it is tournament time, you don’t always know what to expect.”
Princeton kept its season alive by winning the second game 5-2.
Wood pitched the complete game victory, allowing only four Greenbrier East hits.
Ian Southcott was 2-4 for the Tigers and Allen, Wood and Will Hickman each had a hit. Allen and Wood each tallied an RBI and Hickman knocked in two runs.
Zeboskey took the loss for Greenbrier East who will host the deciding game tonight at 6 p.m., weather permitting.
“We have to stay alive. It’s 21 outs and that’s what we’ve been preaching all year. It’s tough to play doubleheaders. I think we’ve got a good pitcher with Zeboskey. We’re the type team once we get a good streak and energy going; we want to play as many games as we can. We’re going to keep the same approach,” Morgan said.
At Hunnicutt Field
Greenbrier East...............007 04 – 11
Princeton.........................000 00 – 0
Bo Williams, Bryce Peek (3), Nick Janutolo (5) and Addison Wood. Ryan Windon and Jacob Frantz WP- Windon; LP- Williams. HR- None.
Greenbrier East..............010 010 0 — 2 4 4
Princeton......................001 040 — 5 6 2
Zeboskey, Lovett (5) and France. Wood and Perry.