Home runs help Nitro rally past Sissonville
NITRO, W.Va. -- The steady breeze blowing from right to left field might not be the prevailing wind at Nitro, but on Wednesday the Wildcats used those gusts to do just that.
Mired in a hitting slump and trailing 3-0 with two on and one out in the bottom of the fifth, shortstop Solomon Shamblin finally lifted a well-hit ball up into that jet stream and rode it all the way over the fence to tie the game.
Two hitters later, designated hitter Dylan Slack did the same to register a two-run shot and Nitro used its five-run rally to sink Sissonville 5-3.
Wildcats coach Steve Pritchard admitted that he had never seen a wind that stout blowing in that direction this early in the year, but at the time Nitro needed all the help it could get.
After registering a 1-0 win over Parkersburg on Tuesday in which the Wildcats mustered just two hits, the Indians' Robbie Phillips had stymied Nitro over the first 4-plus innings, again holding the Wildcats to just two hits.
But back-to-back singles from Jacob Bradley and Tyler Barton to lead off the inning set the table for Shamblin, and his shot seemed to spark the Wildcats.
"It's been that way for seven games," Pritchard said of his struggling offense. "For whatever reason, we just can't chain hits together or at-bats. We have one big inning and that's it. The rest of it is kind of just giving the pitchers a rest."
"I wasn't sure if [the big inning] was going to come or not. It's kind of like what we told them after the game, 'It's 12 years of the same philosophy so it can't be the philosophy, who is it?' The one good thing about it is it's not failure without trying. We lift every day before the game and practice then we play so they're putting the time and effort in it and I think it will come around, it just isn't right now."
It looked like the big inning for Nitro would come early after Shamblin led off the first with a double and Evan Eich followed with a single.
Ryan McDonough walked to load the bases after Slack struck out looking, but Phillips wriggled free, using a strikeout and a fly-out to left field to escape with no damage and went on to retire 11 in a row before the fifth.
Meanwhile, the Indians struck once in the top of the third, fourth and fifth innings off of Nitro starter Barton.
Only one of those runs was earned, and the Indians were helped by three errors - two of them belonging to Shamblin.
Needless to say, there was no one at the ballpark happier to see his game-tying shot leave the yard than he was.
"I made a couple of bad plays in the field and when I got up, I just tried to clear my mind and tried to hit the ball the other way," Shamblin said. "It just happened to go over the fence. I was just thinking hit the ball on the ground or in a gap somewhere. I wasn't thinking home run."
But that's exactly what he got, and despite an offense that may not have peaked yet, it was enough for the Wildcats to earn their fifth win in seven tries.
"I should've pulled Robbie," Sissonville coach Kenny Harper said. "I thought about it a couple of pitches earlier but he had been throwing good. I've got no complaints. We played good ball and so did they. We just got beat."
Freshman Eddie Flores came in for Barton with one out in the fifth inning and, needing eight outs to end the game, got them all via strikeout, including six in a row to close things down.
"He's got a really good slider and some of the things Eddie does as a pitcher is a little bit beyond his years," Pritchard said. "And then there's some other things where you're like, 'Yeah he's still a freshman.' He did a nice job. It was really good for Eddie to come in and save [Ryan] McDonough for tomorrow. He did more than just pitch well, he let our bullpen and our guys rest too."
Eich finished with two hits for Nitro while Houston Hill went 2 for 3 with an RBI for Sissonville (5-6).
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.