Prep baseball: St. Albans puts Nitro in win-or-go-home position
NITRO, W.Va. - Take away what turned out to be two relatively unimportant errors and nothing went wrong for the St. Albans High School baseball team in Wednesday's Class AAA Region 4 Section 2 Tournament meeting with rival Nitro.
As a result, the Red Dragons' 4-1 victory sends St. Albans into tonight's home game with sectional newcomer Logan and puts the Wildcats in the rare must-win situation when they visit Logan on Friday.
If the Red Dragons put together another winning performance tonight, Friday's contest will be an elimination game.
"We weren't totally clean," said Whitman, whose team had one error that led to an unearned run for Nitro. "I'd like for that to be a zero (errors) instead of three, but, we'll take it."
St. Albans turned a 4-6-3 double play in the fifth and Josh Burks threw out base stealers in the first and second innings. Also, St. Albans leadoff hitter Phoenix Shrewsbury had two singles and two stolen bases that led to runs. The Red Dragons stole four bases - three leading to runs.
"There were a few errors, but better field conditions would've had that taken care of," said St. Albans pitcher Dustin Turley, who pitched a complete game, went 3-for-4 with two RBI and had a stolen base. "We just tried to come out focused for seven innings and get the job done."
St. Albans (20-9), which hasn't won the sectional title since 2006, moves to tonight's game at Loftis Field against Logan (17-8). Coach Roger Gertz's Wildcats give the section a third team for the first time since 2002 when South Charleston was involved.
For the first time in 10 years, the second game of the sectional won't be a rematch of the first.
Turley's pump of the fist after securing the last out was enough evidence about his performance. He threw his first seven-inning complete game with four strikeouts and one walk. His earned run average tumbled from 2.10 to 1.79 after surrendering one unearned run that scored from the result of one of St. Albans' errors.
The first error was erased when catcher Burks threw out Eric Keller attempting to steal in the second inning and the third one belonged to Turley when a pickoff throw to second wound up in center field in the sixth.
He retired the final six batters of the game with a Dylan Slack sacrifice fly scoring Nitro's only run.
There wasn't much positive for Nitro Coach Steve Pritchard, whose streak of six consecutive Region 4 championships is in jeopardy.
"The bottom line is that anybody who watched the game saw that their kids wanted it more," said Pritchard, who has won state titles at Sissonville in 1996 and two at Nitro (2008, '10). "They competed harder and did the things it took. We score one in the sixth and they came back and scored one in the seventh."
Nitro cut the lead to 3-1 in the sixth on Slack's sacrifice fly, but a Shrewsbury leadoff single in the seventh was followed by his second stolen base and a Turley double.
"This time of year, we tell the kids, if you play well you're going to win, if you don't play well, you're going to lose, no matter who you're playing," Whitman said. "We're treating this like a tournament where you have to win three games."
Peter Theodos had a double and scored St. Albans' third run on a sacrifice fly by No. 9 hitter Lucas Carfagna in the fourth inning.
Nitro leadoff hitter Solomon Shamblin singled twice, but was caught stealing after a first-inning hit. Jacob Williams singled to lead off the third, but was left at third base.
Slack reached second base in the fourth, but was left stranded.
"We didn't have quality at bats," said Pritchard, whose team popped up three times. "The last two weeks I thought we had straightened up offensively, but it went right back to what we were doing our first 20 games."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.