BROOKSIDE - Even though his team was unbeaten in five starts, Bridgeport baseball coach Ted Downing didn't feel his Bulldogs had a win that really meant something.
They do now after Tuesday afternoon's 4-3 conquest of visiting Martins Ferry on the sun-splashed Niekro Diamond.
"I told the kids before the game that we keep playing people tough, but at some point we're going to have to step up to the plate and beat a really good ballclub," Downing said.
"Martins Ferry is just that. They're well-coached and they showed how good of a team they are last weekend when they beat Linsly," Downing added. "We still made some mental mistakes, but we're still very young with just one senior."
Tied at 3, Bridgeport's Parker Dyson led off the home half of the sixth with a single through the left side of the infield. After Patrick Britton failed on a pair of sacrifice attempts, the junior blasted a double to deep left that allowed Dyson to round the bases with what would turn out to be the game-winning tally.
"The kids never gave up," Downing said. "This win really means something."
For Martins Ferry head coach Anthony Reasbeck, the loss was all about missed opportunities.
"How many runners did we leave on base in scoring position?" he asked. "I think we had runners in scoring position in every inning, sometimes with less than two outs ... and we score three runs.
"You don't win that way," he continued. "We had a great pitching effort from Dustin (Schau) and only one error. I can't fault our effort, but I can fault our execution."
After the Purple Riders (3-2) squandered a golden opportunity in their first at-bat, but Bridgeport's Bailey McGrath wiggled his way out of the two-on, no-out jam.
His Bulldog teammates rewarded him with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Q.J. Williams' ground-rule double to the corner in left jump-started some two-out lightning. Bradley Pritchett drilled a single to center that allowed Williams to score, and Pritchett alertly took second on the throw to the plate. Dyson promptly singled up the middle as Pritchett chugged home for a 2-0 reading.
Martins Ferry drew even in the third when Brendan Baire doubled down the left field line leading off. Marcus Sutton's single to center put runners on the corners, and Robert Vargo's sacrifice fly to right-center chased home Baire, cutting the deficit to 2-1. After Sutton stole second, Luke Straub singled back up the middle to tie the game.
Colt Charlton's perfectly placed bunt single with no outs in the fifth scored Andrew Hadzima from third as Bridgeport took a 3-2 lead, but Martins Ferry came right back in the top of the sixth as Jeremy Plants' soft line to right-center eluded a diving Williams for a double that knocked in Seth Scott, who had dropped a two-out double into left-center.
The inning could have been bigger if not for the outstanding effort of Charlton, who ranged far to his right from short to made a diving snag of a looper by Brendan Baire just inside the leftfield line for the third out.
That set the stage for Britton's clutch hit.
"So far we've been able to come up with the clutch hit here and there," Downing said. "Today was another example of that."
Bailey did his best magician's job as he left seven Purple Riders stranded on base, with all seven ending up in scoring position. He struck out seven and walked just one (intentionally), while serving up 11 hits.
Included in that gut-check effort was a seventh-inning threat by the visitors. Sutton singled to right leading off and stole second. With one out, Sutton went to third on a wild pitch, but McGrath retired the next two hitters on a soft liner to short and and grounder to third.
Schau nearly matched his counterpart's numbers with six Ks and two base-on-balls (one intentional). He surrendered 10 base hits.
"That's baseball," Reasbeck said. "It was a good game between two good teams."
Sutton led Martins Ferry's offense with three singles. Brendan Baire had two doubles. The Purple Riders trek to Richmond today to meet Edison in Buckeye 8 action.
Williams and Dyson each had two safeties for the Bulldogs, who travel to Wheeling to meet Linsly at Holloway Field.
Bridgeport 4, Martins Ferry 3
Ferry 002 001 0- 3 11 1
Bridge. 200 011 x- 4 10 0
MF-Schau lp (6K, 2W) and Scott; B. Baire 2D; Sutton 3S; Vargo S, sac. fly, rbi; Straub S, rbi; Trudo 2S; Scott D; Plants D, rbi
B-McGrath wp (7K, 1W) and Watson; Charlton S, rbi; Williams S, D; Pritchett S, rbi; Dyson 2S, rbi; Britton D, rbi
North can be reached at email@example.com