CHARLESTON, W.Va. ‑ Braden Griffin and the Man baseball team might be a year ahead of schedule, but the youthful Hillbillies aren’t complaining.
Griffin, a junior went 6.1 solid innings, and sophomore reliever and No. 2 pitcher Ryan Adkins got a 5-4-3 double play on two pitches to finish off the Hillbillies’ 3-1 victory over St. Marys (29-3) in Thursday’s Class A state baseball state tournament semifinal.
The victory gives Man (20-12) a date with Notre Dame (27-6) in the Class A title game at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“I do feel like we are a little ahead of schedule because we were really young last year,” said Griffin, who gave up one unearned run with six strikeouts and five walks to improve his season record to 5-3 and his earned run average to 1.24. “I just go out and treat it like any other baseball game and do my job and the defense does its job.
“I was running out of gas in the seventh inning. But, I managed to get an out and they pulled the reliever in. Jake is a sophomore, he did well, and got a double play.”
Griffin also provided much of the offense for the Hillbillies, whose last trip to the state tournament resulted in an 8-3 loss to Madonna in the 2010 title game.
Griffin was credited with two doubles and finished 3-3 with an RBI. Man had seven hits, with Tyler Blair accounting for its only other RBI on a fifth inning single to give the Hillbillies a 2-1 lead. In the sixth, a wild pitch scored Man’s third run.
St. Marys had been limited to fewer than six runs only once this season in a 2-1 win over Gilmer County — another Class A semifinalist — on May 8.
“We left guys stranded on second base and couldn’t get them in,” said Ed Wilson, who is in his 25th season as the Blue Devils’ coach. “We had guys we were counting on to get the big hits and didn’t really come through for us. Jarrod Lough had a couple hits. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
St. Marys had just three hits against Griffin, with the third from catcher Johnny Riggs, who also accounted for its only run with a groundout in the sixth.
Griffin’s pitch count was beginning to rise, hitting 73 through four innings. In his next two innings, he threw only 18 with no strikeouts and no walks after getting behind hitters in the earlier innings.
“Most strikeout pitchers want to throw a lot of balls where they get a lot of swings and misses instead of just allowing contact,” Man coach Larry Vance said of Griffin, who has 92 strikeouts this season. “That’s the type of pitcher that he is right now.
“There were times he was behind in the count 2-0, 3-1 and was coming back with off-speed stuff fooling St. Marys hitters, so he was being a pitcher instead of being a thrower.”
When Griffin would give up solid contact, his defense came through — capped by the double play that ended the game. Also, right fielder Baley Beckwith made a sliding catch of a ball in foul territory while falling over the bullpen mound beyond the right field foul line. That was the first out of the seventh with a runner on first.
“They made some heckuva plays,” Wilson said. “Our centerfielder robbed them of a base hit. They had two or three players that kind of robbed us. Who knows what would’ve happened if they would’ve got on base.
The victory sets up Saturday’s championship game between the Hillbillies and Fighting Irish, neither of which has won a state title.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail