By MICHAEL DAILEY
DAILY MAIL SPORTSWRITER
POCA, W.Va. — Sissonville pitcher Josh Landis wasn’t spectacular on the mound Tuesday, but with his team’s season on the line, the hard throwing sophomore was more than adequate.
Landis tossed seven innings, scattering six hits and collecting seven strikeouts along the way, to lead the Indians to an 8-3 win over Poca in a Class AA Region 4, Section 2 game at Poca High School.
Sissonville improved to 19-14 with the win and forced a third game in the best of three sectional, while Poca dropped to 10-20.
The two teams will meet again Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. for the section title at Poca High School.
For Landis, the key to success was a solid mental approach against the Dots’ batters.
“I just felt real good tonight,” Landis said. “I had to get settled in and my catcher (Dominic Walker) called a really good game today. I felt like my curveball was working really well too.
“I pick a spot and try to pinpoint it, whether it’s on his body or his mitt, depending where he sets up. I just try to go through smooth and try not to get tense. When I get tense, I overthrow a lot, so I just tried to relax.
“Our whole team played really well tonight. We battled through some adversity, so I’m proud about that too.”
Sissonville coach Kenny Harper was pleased with Landis’ 100-plus pitch effort.
“Josh has a good breaking ball and good fastball if he doesn’t try to overthrow,” Harper said. “That’s what hurt him last year and I kept talking to him about not throwing the ball with everything he’s got on every pitch.
“He’s developing into a good pitcher. His attitude has improved 100 percent this year over last year and I expect it to keep improving that much more next year.”
Landis’ game didn’t start that well as the Dots plated single runs in the first and second innings.
The Dots opened the scoring when Bubba Hill crossed the plate on a two-out RBI single by Jake Payne in the first. Sissonville answered in the bottom of the first with three runs off of Payne, who went 3 2/3 innings in taking the loss.
The Indians scored their first run on in infield error, while their final two runs of the inning scored on wild pitches.
Poca trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the second when Carson Cottrill’s sacrifice fly plated Brenden Iezzi, who led off the inning with a single to center. After that shaky start, Landis settled down to toss three consecutive scoring innings, before allowing a run with two outs.
Poca coach Mike Hutchinson credited Landis’ ability to pound the strike zone for his success against the Dots.
“Landis threw the ball well,” Hutchinson said. “He kept the ball down and he kept it in the zone. He threw pitches that were barely outside the zone and got us to either swing and miss or hit a dribbler somewhere.
“He was around the zone consistently and he changed speeds and kept us off balance a little bit. But for the most part, he was successful because he kept the ball around the strike zone.”
Sissonville plated two runs in the fourth inning to stretch its lead to 5-2, before putting the game away with three runs in the sixth.
Landis smacked an RBI double to highlight the fourth inning, while Zac Boggess and JR Stricklen each added an RBI in the sixth.
Landis, along with leadoff man Jacob Fisher, paced the Indians with two hits apiece.
Poca was led by Payne and Matt Chandler with two hits apiece.
“Tonight they got some timely hits and we made some mistakes in the field and gave them a couple free passes,” Hutchinson said. “Errors are going to happen, but when you give away too many free base runners, it generally doesn’t go in your favor.”