Barnesville shut down by Ridgewood in D-III district

T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY BARNESVILLE'S Alex Meade sits in the dugout after the Shamrocks fell in the Division III sectional tournament, 7-1, to Ridgewood.

NEW CONCORD — Barnesville baseball coach D.J. Butler was prepared for the questions.

There were many curious people at the Muskingum University baseball field Monday afternoon surprised that the Shamrocks were electing to pitch Alex Meade instead of lefty ace Jagger Jefferis in the Division III Eastern District semifinal.

Meade had really blossomed into a solid pitcher for the Shamrocks this season, but Jefferis has been the team’s ace all spring and was six days removed from pitching Barnesville past Fort Frye in the sectional co-final.

With the way Ridgewood pitched and kept Barnesville off balance at the plate all afternoon, it might not have mattered who the Shamrocks countered with on the mound.

The Generals — with nary a senior on the roster — punched their ticket to a date with Edison on Wednesday with a trip to the regional tournament on the line by virtue of a 7-1 victory.

Quite simply, Butler put Jefferis’ health above the team.

“Jagger just didn’t feel ready and it’s short rest for him,” Butler said. “He’s a high school kid with a long future ahead of him and I didn’t want to push him beyond what he was comfortable with.”

Butler said as the season’s gone on, Jefferis has needed more time between starts.

“I was not going to push him into some kind of injury that may hurt him in the long run,” Butler said. “He has a long way to go in baseball.”

The loss ends the Shamrocks’ season at 20-7. Twenty-win campaigns don’t come around every day, but Barnesville opened the season with 17 consecutive wins before falling in seven of its final 10, including in the OVAC and EOBL title games.

“Since (the OVAC), we’ve been very up and down and inconsistent,” Butler said. “That’s on me. The teams that have beaten us have done a better job of preparing their kids than I have. I think we have as much talent as anyone, but the second half of the season, since the OVAC, falls on me.”

Meade, who suffered the loss, struggled with his command for the bulk of the four-and-two-thirds innings that he worked. He walked three and uncorked half of the Shamrocks’ eight wild pitches in the game.

“Alex didn’t have his best stuff, but he still battled his way through,” Butler recalled.

It was actually a wild pitch that led directly to the first Ridgewood run and one of those walks to the nine hitter — Javan Belt — and another wild one set up the second run.

Belt was singled home by Koleton Smith, making it 2-0 in the third.

Barnesville was able to get a run back when hard-hitting catcher Jared Kernen took a belt-high fastball deep over the fence in left.

However, the Shamrocks’ momentum was short lived.

Belt led off the Ridgewood fifth with a single. He was sacrificed to second and then remained there after a foul out to first.

The wheels seemingly fell off from there for the Shamrocks. Ridgewood proceeded to score five runs, all of which were earned. Two were charged to Meade and three were assessed to Ayden Hannahs, who came out of the pen.

“We needed to make a play here or there in that fifth inning,” Butler said.

Still, though, the Shamrocks simply couldn’t get anything going against Generals’ pitcher Cale Roberts. He didn’t overpower Barnesville. He had only one strikeout and that didn’t come until the game’s final out.

“We were out on our front side and popped up too many times,” Butler said. “A lot of this falls on me. Whether it was Ridgewood, St. Clairsville or Linsly, we’ve been out-prepared the last few games. I have to look in the mirror and re-evaluate what I am doing.”

Barnesville finished with four hits. Uryan Meade had two singles and Aaron Marovich had a double. Other than Kernen’s trot around the bases, the Shamrocks had nary a runner touch third base.