CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In their only regular season meeting this year, South Charleston was able to go on the road and beat George Washington, so defending home turf was a top priority for GW entering Monday’s Class AAA Region 3, Section 3 playoff game against the visiting Black Eagles.
Thanks to some early offense and a solid outing from starting pitcher Jeff Wong, the Patriots are one game closer to a sectional championship after a 5-2 win in South Hills.
GW (20-12), winner of four of its last five games prior to Monday, sat down the Black Eagles (15-12) in order in the first and then got to work. SC starting pitcher Tyler Abbott walked John Thomas before GW’s Austin Griffith took a 3-2 pitch deep over the Robert Wong Wall in left field. Colton Rollyson, pinch running for Connor Moffatt, also scored in the first to give the Patriots an early 3-0 lead.
“It was big because we talked about being the home team, getting three straight outs and getting in here to hit and get some runs on the board,” George Washington coach Chad Campbell said. “(Griffith) has done that all year for us. He’s a senior and that’s his sixth home run. It got us on the board and jump started us a little bit.”
Both teams escaped the second inning without allowing any damage. In the third, South Charleston showed some signs of life.
Jacob Marler opened the frame by reaching on an error, followed by a Zach Lively single and a Cole Lanier walk to load the bases. Wong, a junior, struggled a bit with his control, walking Antonio Brown and Trevor Sampson to each bring in a run before back-to-back strikeouts left the bases loaded for the Black Eagles.
“We talked about that before the game — being in tough spots though the game that were going to be tough for us,” Campbell said. “It’s always like that when we play South Charleston.”
GW freshman Josh Petit opened the Patriots’ half of the third with a walk and later scored. After the third inning Wong settled down and dominated the South Charleston lineup.
“I thought we had (Wong) there in the third inning,” South Charleston coach Ken Samms said. “If you get a guy like that you have to take advantage of it and we couldn’t get a hit. Then he settled in and it was lights out.”
Wong pitched all six innings for George Washington, striking out 11 while allowing two hits. After South Charleston got its two runs in the third, Wong gave up one hit during the final three innings and also helped his cause at the plate, driving in junior Garrett Vogelbach in the fourth for an insurance run.
“(Wong) did a good job,” Campbell said. “He settled down and left the bases loaded. He was able to finish and get it back and that’s a sign of being mentally tough on his part.”
Griffith led GW at the plate, finishing 1 for 3 with the home run and two runs batted in. Moffatt also finished 1 for 3 with the one hit being an RBI double.
Sampson was the only South Charleston player to record a hit Monday, going 2 for 2 with a walk, a double and a stolen base.
Samms said the Black Eagles have not had their best hitting on display recently, and that was evident Monday against GW.
“We haven’t hit the ball very well,” he said. “We didn’t put it in play at all tonight outside of a couple little dinks. He had a lot to do with it, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll come out tomorrow and see if we can do a better job.”
Abbott, the SC starter, lasted 3 2/3 innings before giving way to Jared Hill to finish the game. Hill kept the Patriots from adding to their lead, but SC was unable to capitalize.
“(Abbott) never got very consistent,” Samms said. “He struggled the whole game working behind hitters and you can’t do that. (George Washington) makes good contact on the ball and they hit-and-run well. They’ve got guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, so you can’t work behind hitters. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
The second game of the best-of-three sectional series is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at South Charleston. A third game, if necessary, will be Wednesday at George Washington.
Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at email@example.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.