POCA — Chapmanville’s undefeated baseball team found itself in unfamiliar territory playing from behind early at Poca, but the Tigers clawed back in comeback fashion to maintain its unblemished record.
The Dots scored a pair of runs in the first inning before Chapmanville , ranked fourth in the Daily Mail’s sportswriters Class AA rankings, recorded the game’s next eight runs in an eventual 17-6 victory on Wednesday night at Al Billings Park.
“We knew Poca would be a good team, they’re one of the best teams in the (Cardinal) Conference,” Chapmanville coach Eric Ellis said. “We knew we were going to be in for a tough ballgame tonight and early on (Poca starting pitcher Jake) Payne had good stuff going, but we finally started waiting on good pitches to hit and got in a groove and made it hard on them.”
What began as a close game finished as a dominating victory, though Ellis said his team must improve in several areas as the season progresses.
“We got to clean our defense up some,” he said of the team’s three errors. “We got a little sloppy on those bunts, and our pitchers worked behind. Normally, we don’t do that. It’s kind of an uncharacteristic game from how they’ve done, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Offensively, the Tigers (10-0) shined as eight batters finished with a hit, including Brady Cox who posted a 2-for-3 performance with a two-run home run as the team’s No. 8 hitter.
“It felt great,” Cox said of the lineup’s hitting prowess. “We’ve been working on our hitting a lot this year. Last year, the bottom of the lineup didn’t hit the ball well. This year, we came out a little bit harder working to hit the ball.”
Ellis said he agreed the offense marked a positive aspect in the Tigers’ play.
“We didn’t leave too many guys on tonight,” he said. “We had clutch hits all night long and we’ve kind of been doing that all year long.”
Chapmanville scored four runs in the third inning to take a 4-2 advantage, then added four more runs in the fourth to create more insurance, runs that later proved more needed than at first necessary.
Defensive miscues haunted Chapmanville, but fortunately for the Tigers, the team’s offense picked up its fielders’ mistakes. Poca’s six runs marked the most Chapmanville had allowed to an opponent after twice allowing four runs this season.
Senior second baseman William Copley provided the Tigers’ first three runs with a bases-loaded clearing triple in the third inning, and Copley later scored on a passed ball.
In the fourth inning, pitcher Tristan Thompson supported his own cause via a two-run single to right field. Copley added a run with an RBI groundout, and Brock Dalton singled home a run, too, in the four-run fourth.
Poca manufactured the game’s first run when Payne was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the first inning. Next, Carson Cottrill plated a run with a one-out single to right field, though a second base runner attempting to score was thrown out at home plate. The Dots failed to make any further damage in the inning.
“We came out pretty relaxed and that’s one thing we did in practice (Tuesday) is talking about how we need to start playing relaxed,” Dots coach Mike Hutchinson said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are pressing, so when we came out, I thought, we were relaxed and came out and had a good top of the first, scored a couple runs. They took the run on a three-run double, and I think we started pressing hard and a couple plays we didn’t make. It just happened.”
Trailing 8-2, Poca scored its other two runs in the fourth inning. Each of the Dots’ first three batters of the inning reached base and two infield errors provided Poca with two more runs.
Just as Poca drew closer, Chapmanville added a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning when Cox hit a two-run home run to right center field. The Tigers later added two more runs in the sixth inning on a throwing error.
With another Chapmanville error and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth inning, Poca cut the deficit to six runs, but drew no closer.
The Tigers tallied the game’s final five runs in the top of the seventh inning to provide plenty of support before cementing the win in the bottom half of the inning.
Poca next plays host to Mingo Central 6 p.m. today, while Chapmanville plays host to Capital 7 p.m. Friday.