May 16—CUMBERLAND — Though Allegany failed to score for four straight innings after falling behind 2-1 against Southern Saturday — despite recording a hit each frame — the message never wavered.
“Keep throwing strikes and playing defense, and we’ll get you a run,” Campers head coach Scott Bauer repeated after every fruitless inning at the plate.
The skipper’s positivity eventually came to fruition.
With Southern ace Isaac Upole out of the game, Allegany pounced, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh with two outs — punctuated by a Griffin Madden walk-off — to beat Southern, 3-2.
“We had a diving catch in left field, turned double plays and our pitcher pounded the zone,” Bauer said. “Just give us a chance to win at the end.
“We’re facing Isaac Upole. … We’re staying positive because you’re going against a good pitcher like that, and you’re putting the bat on the ball. We’re just this close. We’re hitting balls right at people.”
Rams reliever Kobey Hawk, in search of the save, nearly got out of the late-game jam unscathed after a huge strikeout for the second out, with the tying and winning runs on second and third.
But a wild ball four to Grant Cain allowed Eli Wallace to score and moved Athey to third — both also reached via free passes — to tie the game.
With some of the pressure off Allegany, Madden hit an opposite-field screamer to right-center on an 0-1 pitch to score Wes Athey, cueing the celebration.
“I was just looking for something to hit, take it to right field,” Madden said, who went 1 for 3, “I’m glad I was able to do that. I knew I was going to get a hit that at-bat.”
Before being forced out of the game due to his pitch count, Upole’s resilience was on full display.
The West Virginia University commit brought the heat and commanded his breaking ball, but Allegany was on both. Upole faced constant pressure, as the Campers delivered eight hits off the left-hander, yet he gave up just one run in six innings of work, striking out six and walking none in a no-decision.
“It’s pretty hard to get away with a lot against a good hitting team like that,” Southern head coach Dan Holler said. “He did a good job of mixing it up and staying in the counts and all that.”
In addition to scoring the winning Allegany run, Athey spun a gem on the bump, allowing two runs on seven hits with six strikeouts in a complete-game win.
Athey did walk four Southern hitters, but he threw enough first-pitch strikes and quick outs to keep his pitch count low and finish the game.
“All together, we just played really well as a team,” Athey said. “We knew we were going to win this game, and that if we kept hitting the ball, it would fall through eventually.
“Whatever (coach Bauer) says I’m just going to go do. I’m going to try to throw strikes and try to win the game.”
It wasn’t a solo effort by Athey to keep the Rams off the scoreboard. The left-hander benefitted from a diving catch by Wallace in left field during the fifth and an impressive 6-4-3 double play that pulled shortstop Darian Bauer close to third base in the sixth.
In the third frame, right-fielder Cayden Bratton gunned a runner down at the plate on a line to preserve the Campers’ 2-1 deficit.
Athey, Bratton and Matt Fuzie each tallied two singles to lead Allegany at the plate. Seven hitters combined for the Campers’ nine hits.
Wallace again played a big part in the nine-hole. He went 1 for 2 with a stolen base and scored the tying run in the seventh and drove in Allegany’s first run on a groundout to first during the second inning.
Southern struck first in the top of the second on an RBI infield single by Hawk. After the Campers answered with a score in the bottom half, the Rams plated another thanks to a defensive miscue.
Southern had runners on first and second after back-to-back singles by Upole and Elisha Skipper — who both finished 1 for 3 — but Athey got Tanner Haskiell to ground into what looked like a possible inning-ending double-play.
The throw to first was late, and the ball was lost behind first base to allow Skipper to scamper home after starting from second for a 2-1 lead.
Seven Rams recorded a hit. Will Moon was 1 for 3 with a walk from the top of the line-up, Haskiell had a single with a walk and a run, and Brysen Cowgill reached twice with a single and one free pass.
The loss is Southern’s third in three days by a single run to drop to 3-7. The Rams are back against the Campers at the Hot Stove Complex on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
“I keep telling the kids, ‘It’s going to go our way soon,'” Holler said. “We’ve just got to come up with that big hit or that big play, but I think we’re right on the verge.”
Allegany has now won three straight to move to 3-1, and the team has a tough test against undefeated Northern (9-0) on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
“We want to play every day, we’re going to get better each day,” coach Bauer said. “Just in a matter of seven days, look how much better we’ve gotten. We’ll keep playing until they tell us we’re done.”
Alex Rychwalski is a sportswriter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.