Barnesville blanks Fort Frye

T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY BARNESVILLE third baseman Jared Kernen skies for a chopper during the sixth inning of Tuesday's Division III sectional co-final against Fort Frye.

BARNESVILLE — The Barnesville Shamrocks’ baseball ship is officially righted.

The late-season swoon that saw them lose five of six entering the tournament is officially in the past.

Since the Shamrocks opened sectional play on Saturday, Coach D.J. Butler’s team has looked muc like the squad that won its first 17 games of the season.

Barnesville punched its to ticket to the Division III Eastern District tournament Tuesday at sun-splashed Memorial Park with a hard-earned 4-0 victory against a solid Fort Frye squad.

“We’ve played two really good baseball games (in the tournament),” Butler said. “We’ve cleaned up some of the things we needed to and it’s a credit to these kids because they’ve worked hard (in practice) to get better.”

On top of those improvements, Barnesville features one of the area’s best on the mound in southpaw Jagger Jefferis. He continually made big pitches when he needed to escape some jams and keep the game scoreless until his club’s offense came alive.

Fort Frye, which had only three hits, had a runner reach base in every inning except the second and fifth. In the third and fourth, the Cadets stranded a runner at third base.

It was in the top of the sixth when Jefferis pulled his best Houdini act. Fort Frye had three hit in the inning and still couldn’t push a run across.

Jefferis, who struck out nine in the game, picked off a runner at first and then after allowing two more base hits, got a strikeout to thwart the rally.

“Jagger has been solid all year and I can’t say enough about his effort,” Butler said. “He really bulled his neck and made some pitches. He stranded some runners early and if they get on the board in those chances, it could be a different game.”

Seeming to feed off the momentum of Jefferis’ pitching, the Shamrocks’ offense, which had been stymied by Fort Frye ace Luke Nelson, got going in the home half of the inning.

With one out, Aaron Marovich kept the inning alive when he legged out what looked like a sure double-play ball for a fielder’s choice.

Hard-hitting third baseman Jared Kernen then drew a walk, which brought up Jefferis. Working the count, he got a pitch on the outer half and drove into left, scoring Kason Powell, who was inserted as a pinch runner.

“I knew (Nelson) had been throwing his curveball a lot and I was just sitting there waiting on one I could drive,” Jefferis said. “I got one I could drive and just (hit it where it was pitched) for a hit.”

Sophomore Ayden Hannahs promptly followed with a bases-clearing triple into left center that scored Kernen and Jeremy Hunkler, who entered to run for Jefferis. Alex Meade then plated the fourth run of the inning with a double down the left-field line.

“Our kids really focused in (offensively) and did a good job of making (Nelson) throw a lot of pitches from about the third inning on,” Butler said. “He left a couple of curveballs up and over the plate, we jumped on them and found a gap.”

In the seventh Jefferis allowed a lead-off single, but promptly induced a double-play ball and then ended the game with a strikeout.

“We had opportunities and against a good team like Barnesville, you have to capitalize,” Fort Frye head coach Rob Nelson said. “They had a nice sixth inning and that was the ballgame. It was two great pitchers, but their guy was just a little bit better.”

The Shamrocks, who didn’t allow a run in the sectional, will have both Jefferis and Meade, who blanked Bellaire on Saturday, available on full rest when the district tourney opens on Monday.

“Alex has really come on and it’s to the point where if Jagger needs some extra rest, we have no problem throwing Alex out there,” Butler said.

The Shamrocks will take on Ridgewood, which dispatched Garaway, at Muskingum University at 5 Monday.

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