SHENANDOAH JUNCTION — Baseball games that are close often find a winner because of one or two pitches, plays or happenings.
[cleeng_content id="307179045" description="Read it now!" price="0.15" t="article"]When Jefferson and Washington finally opened their long-delayed Sectional series, the game was close (with the Cougars winning, 7-4) and could have fallen to either team.
Both starting pitchers were gone. Walks, fragile defenses, a reversed call by the umpires and stranded baserunners all combined to make Jefferson’s two-run lead seem about as comfortable as a horsehair suit or a cactus pillow.
Reliever Blake Johnson was facing only his third Washington batter. He had been summoned to replace Andrew King partially because the sophomore had walked or hit a combined seven batters in his 3.2 innings.
Johnson let the count go to 3-0 on Jared Silva. He eventually retired Silva. Only two batters later and Johnson was staring at another 3-0 count on Blake Wilt. He eventually got Wilt to pop out to second.
Getting outs after falling behind 3-0 on two batters were important instances in Johnson’s 3.1 innings or relief work. He allowed only two soft singles and three baserunners to the 13 men he faced.
And the Cougars had made the most of a six-run second inning that had quickly reversed Washington’s 2-0 lead off King and his three walks. After only two innings, Jefferson’s 6-2 lead had more twists and turns and misadventures by both teams than would normally be seen in crisply-played 10-inning games.
The two hits Jefferson had in the first off Washington starter Silva meant little because a runner was picked off and another left in scoring position after Silva’s errant pickoff throw.
Three walks and Wilt’s RBI single had gotten the Patriots a run in the second. The bases were loaded with one out when Bryan Bayliss sent a low-slung liner to first baseman Brandt Petrie. After Petrie gloved the ball and stepped on first, the base umpire ruled he had caught it in the air and it was an apparent double play.
After the four umpires huddled, that call was reversed and another ruling stood that said Petrie had trapped the liner and Silva was allowed to score from third.
Jefferson was to use walks, three infield singles and RBI hits from Andrew King (four of Jefferson’s 11 hits) and Miguel Acosta to score six runs and bring about a Washington pitching change. Andrew Grove, Michael King and Paul Witt had the infield hits.
In the fourth, Washington was to show just how fragile the Jefferson lead was when it received two walks, had a batter hit by a pitch and had Seth Campbell deliver a two-run single. But Johnson replaced Andrew King and got the third out with the bases loaded when Witt speared Drew Hetzel’s long liner to left.
And when Johnson had faced his 13 batters and walked only one of them, Jefferson had won the series opener.