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Martins Ferry topples Barnesville to reach OVAC 3A title game

T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY MARTINS FERRY second baseman Colten Reddinger pivots to turn a double play as Barnesville's Jeremy Hunkler slides into second during the first inning of Saturday's OVAC 3A semifinal at Memorial Park.

BARNESVILLE — After his club defeated Barnesville on Monday in a regular-season game in nine innings, Martins Ferry head coach Anthony Reasbeck said “big wins come in May.”

The calendar has flipped to May, and ironically, his Purple Riders posted their biggest win to date.

Taking advantage of three Barnesville errors in the outfield during the decisive second inning, the Purple Riders scored all three of their runs and then held for a 3-2 victory behind brilliant pitching by junior Colby Shriver.

“I don’t see any trophies yet,” Reasbeck said. “This is a bigger win, but I am not sure it’s a big win. We’ll see. We have to continue to get better.”

The Purple Riders are expected to play for the conference title on Friday at Toronto’s Red Knight Baseball Complex against Linsly, which defeated Fort Frye in the other 3A semifinal.

“We’ll worry about (Linsly) later in the week,” Reasbeck said. “We have John Marshall on Monday. It may sound stupid, but we’re not playing at the level I think we’re capable of. We had a chance for a knock-out blow and we just couldn’t deliver it.”

The Riders had the Shamrocks dazed in the second, however.

Kameron Hughes led off the inning by inducing a walk after being down in the count nothing and two.

Logan Smith followed and hit a shot into left center, which was dropped, leaving runners at first and second.

Brayden Maine then followed with a single and the Riders played station to station on the base paths.

Conner Probst lofted a fly ball to right, which was plenty deep enough to score Hughes on the sacrifice fly. The throw in to the infield was well off the mark and went out of play, allowing Smith to score and sending Maine all the way to third.

Trevor Hanson then hit what appeared to be a lazy fly into right center, which again was dropped by the Shamrocks outfielder, allowing Mayne to score.

“We’ve not made many errors this season, so that (second) inning was uncharacteristic of us,” a disappointed D.J. Butler said. “It cost us today, but we kept battling and our kids left it all out there.”

Now with a three-run cushion, Shriver went to work.

He pitched around a one-out single in the third, but in the second, fourth and fifth, he sat the Shamrocks down in order.

The Purple Riders appeared to be on the verge of blowing the game open in the fifth when put two aboard and chased Barnesville starter Ayden Hannahs.

Junior Kason Powell, however, got a strikeout and then induced a ground ball on the infield and the Shamrocks cut down a Rider runner at the plate. The escape was completed with a groundout to short.

The Shamrocks finally got to Shriver in the sixth. Ninth-hitter C.J. Hannahs, who had a hit earlier in the game, ignited the rally with a single. Ayden Hannahs drew a walk.

Two hitters later, Jake Edwards singled in C.J. Hannahs. Logan Shepherd grounded out to third, but the Riders conceded the run. Shriver then got the next Shamrock to pop out innocently to first baseman Logan Smith.

Reasbeck, by his own admission didn’t give one thought to going to his bullpen in that sixth. It was going to be Shriver’s game.

“Colby is nuts, but he’s my nut, and I mean that as the greatest compliment possible,” Reasbeck said. “He showed something in the sixth. It’s Kentucky Derby day, and Colby is our horse, so we were going to ride him.”

Ferry didn’t threaten to tack on any insurance runs in the seventh.

Barnesville proceeded to lead off the bottom half with a seeing-eye single by catcher Kyvan Johnson.

Again, however, Shriver didn’t panic. He went to work. He got back-to-back fielder’s choices on the infield, but then walked C.J. Hannahs to put the tying run in scoring position.

But, he buckled down and got the final out on a fly ball to right.

“Our kids battled to the last out and we had the guy up we wanted with a chance,” Butler said. “It just didn’t go our way. We knew (Shriver) was good. He threw his off-speed stuff for a strike, threw out of the zone when he wanted to and got us chasing. He did everything he had to win.”

While the Purple Riders will play on Friday for their first conference title since 2002, the Shamrocks are left wondering what might have been.

Despite consistently being among the area’s premier teams each and every spring, the OVAC title has eluded the Shamrocks since 1997.

This marks the seventh time since 2009 the Shamrocks have been a part of the OVAC Tournament, but have stubbed their toe.

“For me, it’s crushing,” Butler said of coming up short again in the OVAC. “I’ve got to be able to do something to get these guys over the hump. A lot of this (disappointment) is on me. It’s obviously something I am doing because we get this far every year and I just can’t get us over the top.”

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