POCA, W.Va. - Turns out that Herbert Hoover is human, after all. Very human, in fact.The unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Huskies committed five errors and Poca pounced on the extra chances all the way through, battering its way to a 12-4 Cardinal Conference victory Friday night.Sophomore right-hander Noah Frampton went the distance for the Dots (13-5), the No. 7 team in the Gazette's Class AA state ratings, and also contributed at the plate, going 3 for 4 with two doubles and drove in four runs."They were all fired up for this,'' Poca coach Gene Estel said of his players. "This was a big game for us.''
The Dots were all too eager to capitalize on Hoover's miscues, since they suffered a 10-0 loss to the Huskies and ace pitcher Tristan Fields at Falling Rock on April 2."We just came out ready to play this game,'' Frampton said. "It was early in the season [the first time versus Hoover] and I don't think we were really prepared. Tonight we knew we were going to face Fields and we knew we had to hit him because he's a very good pitcher - and we did.''Hoover (16-1) entered the game as one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the state (Class A Gilmer County at 18-0 being the other), but fell behind 6-0 after two innings, with all those runs unearned due to four early Huskies errors. In all, nine of Poca's 12 runs were unearned.
"They put the ball in play and we didn't make the play,'' said Hoover coach Brian Young. "That was it exactly. That set the tone for the ballgame. When you put yourself in that-type of hole, it's tough to battle back from.''Hoover actually outhit Poca 13-8, but the Dots came through with more timely knocks.Frampton smacked a two-run double to highlight a five-run second inning for the Dots and later added another two-run double in the fifth as Poca flirted with a mercy-rule stoppage. Four runs in the bottom of the fifth bumped the lead to 12-3 and the Dots had a runner at second with two out and a chance to end the game early, but Hoover got an out to buy more time.Only one of those fifth-inning runs was earned - Evan McClanahan launched a solo homer to right-center field - because Hoover dropped a foul pop along the third-base line with one out. That batter, Matt Chandler, was then hit by an 0-2 pitch and the next hitter whiffed, but Frampton followed with a two-run double and Brett Watts (2 for 4) stroked an RBI double.
"They're a very, very good team,'' Frampton said, "and they usually make the routine plays. The few mistakes they do make, we had to pounce on them, and we did tonight.''Frampton wasn't overpowering - he permitted 13 hits and fanned only three - but the end result was certainly more pleasing than the last time he faced the Huskies."He took the loss up there,'' Estel said, "and we [coaches] were trying to decide what we were going to do earlier this week and who we were going to throw. I asked Noah [Thursday], 'Do you want the ball?' And he said, 'Yeah, I want it - worse than I've ever wanted anything.' I said, 'All right, that's all I needed to hear.' He was pumped up coming in - maybe a little bit too pumped up a couple times - but we got him dialed back in and told him to stay within himself.''Frampton also got solid support from his defense, which committed no errors even thought it had to handle 18 of the 21 outs.
Third baseman Chandler handled six ground balls cleanly for putouts at first. Second baseman Skyler Vealey made a superb lunging stab to rob Ryan Shamblin of a hit in the fifth inning and center fielder Jake Payne pulled off a fantastic diving catch to end the sixth, leaping to his feet and doubling a runner off second base."They made every play tonight,'' Young said.The victory kept Poca afloat in the Cardinal Conference race, boosting its league record to 5-1, good for second place behind Hoover (8-1)."Our first goal at the beginning of the season was to win the conference,'' Estel said. "I don't know if Poca's ever won the Cardinal Conference in baseball."We didn't really talk about [the earlier loss to Hoover] because that's just one more thing of pressure for us. We figure if we can make it through our sectional, they're probably the team we'll see in the regional semifinals. We wanted to come out hard and give them something to think about. They jumped on us early and we came back tonight and played well with them and got a split. Now we'll see what happens.''For Hoover, Shamblin finished 3 for 4 with a triple and an RBI, Cody Bowen (3 for 4) had two RBIs and Fields went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. Corey Bird, a Marshall recruit and one of the Kanawha Valley's leading hitters, went 0 for 3 with a walk.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.