ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Fans of offensive baseball got a real treat Thursday afternoon at Memorial Park.
Homestanding St. Clairsville took several punches from Union Local, but had an answer time and time again and then turned things over to its bullpen en route to a hard-earned 9-6 victory.
"I think we did a good job of doing what we needed to do to win," said St. C. head coach Tom Sliva. "We played situational baseball, got key hits when we needed to and we started shutting them down when we had to."
The pendulum was swinging back-and-forth with regularity during the game's first three-plus innings.
Union Local pushed across two runs in the second, but St. Clairsville answered with four unearned runs in its half of the frame. Slick junior outfielder Malik Gummer provided the big hit when he cleared the bases with a double to the left-center gap.
The Jets answered right back with a four spot of their own in the third, which chased Red Devils' starting pitcher Brandon Ducker after just two-and-two-thirds. Catcher Cody Burnett had the big hit in the inning when he looped a single down the rightfield line, driving in two runs.
Tyler Blomquist, who allowed Burnett's hit, got one out to escape the jam with St. C. looking up at a 6-4 deficit.
Unfazed, the Red Devils got the bats out again against Jets' ace Eric Dunfee, who pitched a better game than his line shows. Ryan Busby drove in a run with a single and with two outs, ninth-hitter Dylan Busby doubled on a ball that landed in no-mans land down the rightfield line, driving in two more runs, giving the Devils a 7-6 lead.
The fourth inning proved to be the most important inning of the contest. On the strength of a single, fielder's choice that didn't record an out and a walk, the Jets loaded the bases and forced Sliva back into his pen.
Junior Tommy Stewart was called upon, inheriting the tough spot with the heart of the Jets' order due up.
Stewart proceeded to strike out the side as the Jets left the bases loaded.
"That was a big momentum shift," Sliva said. "Tommy really shut the door and he's not been out there (on the mound) all that much, so that was just huge."
In the other dugout, first-year skipper Pec Schmitt knew that was the opportunity and his team simply couldn't cash in.
"The fourth inning is the story of the game," Schmitt said. "Great job on their part to just mow us down, but bad job on our part. All he was throwing was fastballs and we just didn't hit it."
Ryan Busby and Joel Giffin added RBI singles in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively as the Devils got a couple of insurance runs.
Union Local loaded the bases in the seventh, but Stewart induced a pop out to Gummer in center to end the game.
All told, Stewart finished with seven strikeouts, walked just one and allowed two singles.
"Out of the nine outs (Stewart) recorded, seven were strikeouts," Schmitt lamented. "I could see the fire in the kids' eyes early in the game, but our morale was down after that (fourth) inning. They got ahead and our kids just sunk, but we'll fix that."
Burnett had three hits to lead the Jets' offensive attack. Freshman Shane Smolenak and Dunfee each had a pair of singles and junior Logan Smith had a two-run hit.
Lewis Mitchell also contributed two singles for the Red Devils.
Both teams are slated to play today. Union Local treks to Harrison Central, while St. C. visits Bellaire.
St. Clairsville 9, Union Local 6
Union Local 024 000 0 - 6 10 3
St. Clairsville 043 011 x - 9 8 0
UL: Dunfee lp (2K, 3W), James (7, 0K, 0W) and Burnett. Smolenak 2S, M. Dunfee S, RBI; E. Dunfee 2S, RBI; Smith S, 2RBI; Burnett 3S, 2RBI.
StC: Ducker (1K, 1W), Blomquist wp (3, 0K, 2W), Stewart (4, 7K, 1W) and Slavik. Gummer D, 3RBI; Giffin 2S, RBI; Mitchell 2S, R. Busby 2S, 2RBI; D. Busby S, 2RBI.