Red Devils answer the call against Bellaire

St. Clairsville’s Dustin Carrothers makes contact with the ball during Wednesday’s Buckeye 8 encounter against Bellaire at Memorial Park. Carrothers batted twice during a six-run sixth inning as the Red Devils prevailed, 12-5, clinching the Buckeye 8 South crown.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The top of the fifth inning of Wednesday’s Buckeye 8 baseball tilt between Bellaire and St. Clairsville was a source of pride for the Red Devils and a source of frustration for the Big Reds.

Bellaire trailed by one heading into the frame, but loaded the bases with two outs. St. Clairsville, however, stymied the threat, then exploded for six runs in the home half of the inning en route to a convincing 12-5 triumph, one that secured another South Division title for Head Coach Tom Sliva’s club.

“I’m really happy,” Sliva said. “There’s so many things that we’ve talked about — learning to play with a lead, learning to play from behind, battling — we did those.”

The Red Devils did a lot in winning for the seventh time in 12 tries, but what pleased Sliva the most was his team’s never-say-die attitude.

One day after being mercy-ruled at Wheeling Park, St. Clairsville watched Bellaire bat around in the first, scoring five runs in the process and grabbing momentum before a Red Devil could step to the plate. Still, Sliva wasn’t overly concerned.

“I told the guys that if Kyle (Storer, the Red Devils’ starting pitcher) buckles down like I know he can, they won’t score again,” he said. “So, don’t panic, get a couple (of runs) here and there and get back in it.”

That’s what the Red Devils did, starting right away in the first. The first three St. C. batters reached, before catcher Jakob Jarvis delivered the big blow.

“His two-out, two-run single was huge,” Sliva said of the blast that plated Matthew Busby and Will Balgo. “That took a bit of air out of them and put a little bit of momentum in our dugout.

“I think it was probably the biggest hit of the game, which led to the rest of the guys … it was contagious and we were able to start string some hits together.”

The Red Devils came back with three more runs in the second to tie the game at 5-5. Balgo belted a 2-run double that tied the game, following up Storer’s RBI single.

Then, in the fourth, the Red Devils took the lead for good when John Luke DeFilippo scored on a fielder’s choice.

In the meantime, Storer stood strong on the hill, limiting the Big Reds to three hits between innings two through four — just like his coach predicted.

“I don’t think Kyle could’ve buckled down any better than he did,” Sliva said. “He’s such a quality kid and a quality pitcher. He’s such a competitor. Again, I had all the confidence in the world in him.”

Storer, who finished with seven Ks and no walks, ran into trouble in the fifth.

Mason Badia reached second to start the inning on a single and error. Trenton Wilson then reached safely on a bunt, allowing Badia to move to third. With one down, Hunter Boyd hit a comebacker to Storer. He immediately rifled the ball home, getting Badia for out No. 2. Cody Albaugh singled, loading the bases before Storer got leadoff batter Bobby Roth to ground out to short ending the inning.

The Big Reds (2-9) had seven hits in the first, with Quentin Baker driving in two runs and Wilson and Boyd each knocking in one. But after that, Bellaire was stymied.

“We came out swinging and held our own,” Bellaire head coach John Patrone admitted. “Out of the 14 innings we’ve played them this week, 12 have been good ones. (Monday) it was 2-2 going into the seventh and that had a (5-run) inning.

“At some point we need to get over the hump and start winning some games.

“We did a lot of good things (Wednesday), but their guy threw a good things and he didn’t get rattled.”

St. Clairsville batted around in the bottom of the fifth to put the game away. Five players recorded RBIs on just two hits.

“That was good,” Sliva noted of the production up and down the lineup. “That’s what we need. We just have to keep trying to get better.”