SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston coach Ken Samms is enjoying his young bunch.The Black Eagles gave Samms a few more reasons to like this group as three pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout and the offense scratched out enough runs for a 3-0 victory over previously unbeaten Poca. A crowd of about 75 attended the chilly matchup at Bryan- McIlwain Field at South Charleston High School."I'm kind of happy with them right now,'' said Samms, who replaced six senior starters with youthful talent. "They're hard workers and good kids. Look at them, they're out there raking the infield. Good to work with guys that want to learn and that are getting better.''SC starter Jerod Jobst and relievers Trevor Sampson and John Pauley combined to strike out 13 batters, including eight looking, and stranded seven runners. Jobst turned in five shutout innings, surrendering just four singles while punching out nine.Sampson fanned three in 11/3 innings, but encountered trouble in the seventh after allowing a walk and then hit a batter to put runners at first and second with one out. Pauley came in and whiffed Poca No. 9 hitter Skyler Vealey looking, then forced Dots leadoff hitter Noah Frampton, who went 2 for 4, to fly out to right field to end the game."I was just trying to throw strikes and let my team help me out,'' said Jobst of his performance. "I knew they could. I knew we would do something with the bats."Catcher [John] Cline was calling the spot and I was just trying to hit it with my fastball. Since we're young, teams aren't thinking much of us, but we're surprising a couple of teams. Once the season comes on I think we'll progress and become a good team.''The Class AAA Black Eagles (3-1) found creative ways to make the pitching stand up. Jobst lofted a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third for a 1-0 lead, scoring No. 9 batter Brandon Knapper, who coaxed a four-pitch walk, moved to second when Cline walked and took third on a wild pitch.
Austin Santrock bunted for a single and drove in a run for a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the fifth. Poca first baseman David Taylor fielded the ball cleanly but had no play at home plate or at first.Cline, who went 2 for 3, knocked in the final run on a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth. Knapper, who scored twice, came through with a two-out single then stole second to put himself in scoring position.SC, though, still has a few things to work on as it missed scoring opportunities, leaving eight men on base. In the third the Black Eagles left a runner on third with one out and in the fifth they lined into a double play to end the inning with the bases loaded with one out."We should have scored a couple more runs,'' Samms said. "You've got to be able to score runs. It puts so much pressure on you when you can't score. You've got to be perfect. You get two or three hits a game, that's not going to beat most teams. They're a young bunch.'' Frampton, Poca's starting pitcher, allowed two earned runs on four hits in five innings with five strikeouts and four walks. The Dots, No. 7 in the Gazette's AA ratings, dropped to 3-1."For us in years past that's been our Achilles' heel,'' said Poca coach Gene Estel of not producing enough runs. "[South Charleston] put the ball in play, that's what they beat us on. They were swinging the bats and we weren't. We came to the plate with [the bat] on our shoulders."The pitchers threw well and did their jobs. You give up three runs you should win a ballgame. We're just young. All three freshmen were in the game at some point. I'm never happy with a loss, but other than our approach at the plate there are positives to take from it.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.