Sissonville had no margin for error, but Collin Cottrell was up to the task.
The junior left-hander fired a three-hit shutout Monday to keep the top-seeded Indians afloat in the Class AA Region 4 Section 1 tournament with a 1-0 victory against Point Pleasant, forcing a decisive game on Tuesday.
Cottrell struck out seven, walked one and allowed just two runners to get into scoring position against the No. 2 seed Black Knights (19-8). He retired the final seven batters, allowing the Indians to prevail after they scratched out a run in the bottom of the fifth on No. 9 hitter Tristan Portz’s RBI single.
“That’s the key to our success this year,’’ said Sissonville coach Chad Carpenter. “Great pitching, great defense and score with whatever opportunities we have, and that’s how we did it tonight.’’
The Indians (20-5), who already have a loss in the double-elimination event, again host Point at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Sissonville had dropped its only two previous meetings this season with Point by scores of 7-0 and 12-2 in the regular season. The Black Knights also got a fine effort from their pitcher Monday as right-hander Joel Beattie worked all six innings, permitting six hits with six K’s and one base on balls. He worked out of potential jams in the fourth and sixth with no runs crossing.
The game’s lone run came after Colten Carpenter was hit by a Beattie pitch to lead off the home half of the fifth. Brayden Perdue made two attempts to bunt Carpenter over to second, but failed. With two strikes, however, he lashed a single to right, sending Carpenter to third.
The rally looked like it might fizzle when Point catcher Hunter Lilly threw out Perdue trying to steal second, with Carpenter holding third, and Beattie then induced an infield pop. However, with two out, Portz bounced a ball up the middle that deflected off Beattie, scoring Carpenter.
“They found a way to get guys on and make something happen,’’ said Point coach Andrew Blain. “When you get beat that way, yeah, it’s upsetting but you know you didn’t beat yourselves. We played clean baseball in the field, minimized the free bases, had no errors. If we play like that [Tuesday], we could have a good outcome.’’
Cottrell said he knew before the game that his array of pitches was going to work out for him. He needed just 77 pitches to go an economical seven innings.
“Down in the bullpen, working on it, I could feel it today,’’ Cottrell said. “I was good. Earlier when I pitched against them, I did not have my good stuff.’’
Cottrell said he didn’t use Sissonville’s do-or-die status as extra motivation. Instead, he just blocked out everything leading up to the first inning.
“I just forget about all that and focus on what’s today,’’ he said. “You just keep doing what you’re doing and everything will work out if you try your best.’’
Chad Carpenter said he was “exceptionally pleased with the way Collin pitched. That’s the guy I’ve been accustomed to coaching the last couple years, and that was as good as he’s been in a long time, very efficient.’’
Cottrell got plenty of support from his defense, which included fine running catches in the outfield by Isaiah Ramsey in center on a ball hit by Beattie to lead off the second and an over-the-shoulder grab by left fielder Stevie Loftis off the bat of Hunter Bush to start the seventh — a ball that looked destined for extra bases.
Sissonville didn’t celebrate much after the final out, knowing there’s still work to be done.
“They’re high school kids, yes, but they’re intelligent,’’ Chad Carpenter said. “They understand what’s going on [Tuesday]. They’ve been playing elimination games now for three games in a row, so they understand that.
“It’s good to be back home again tomorrow. That’s the way I like it, the way it’s set up now. The regular season means something, as opposed to before — it didn’t.’’
Point, with eight senior starters and a deep pitching staff, is also poised for a sectional title. The Black Knights have held 12 opponents to three or fewer runs this season.
“Our pitching has been solid this entire season,’’ Blain said, “which has gotten us to this point. So I expect nothing less tomorrow.
“That’s what I told our guys: Tomorrow is about who wants it more, about who’s committed more. We’ll see how we can respond from a loss, a tough loss, but it’s the kind of loss you can handle because you just got beat. Their guy threw a heck of a game, so hats off to him. Awesome job, phenomenal job.’’
Lilly was 2 for 3 for Point and Hunter Montgomery 2 for 3 with a double for the Indians.