Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — Right off the bat, pun intended, Adena knew it was in for a dogfight Wednesday evening.
Hosting Portsmouth West in a Division III sectional semifinal, the No. 6 seeded Warriors found themselves in a 2-2 ballgame heading to the bottom of the fourth inning.
But timely hits and patience at the plate led to six runs in the frame, creating a deficit the Senators could never recover from, in an 8-5 tournament-style win — the program’s eighth straight victory.
“[West coach] Chris [Rapp] is a really good baseball coach and he’s a really good person,” Barr said. “I told our guys all week that we were in for a dogfight, simply because I know Chris Rapp was going to get every bit he could get out of his kids. We knew we were in for a battle and [West] didn’t disappoint.”
The win may have not been possible without pitcher Roman Long, who threw 3 ⅓ innings of relief work, keeping West’s offense off-balance and at bay. The senior entered the game in the fourth with the bases loaded and no outs, proceeding to erase the threat without a run crossing the plate.
“Roman Long came in, did a great job and when we got into a little bit of a pickle and didn’t have him as ready as we normally would have … we’re blessed with pitching,” Barr said. “Roman has thrown really, really well for us over the last month of the season. He came into today and did what we knew he would do. He did what we expected him to do. He was super-effective tonight.”
West (8-11) got on the board first when Cade Powell knocked in Dylan Bradford with an RBI single in the top half of the first inning. However, Adena (17-10) answered right back with two runs of its own in the bottom half, scoring on a two-run double via Ethan Kunkel.
Down 2-1, the Senators tied the ballgame again in the second when Austin Arnett sent Luke Howard sprinting home with an RBI single that dropped just over the third baseman’s head.
In the fourth, West loaded the bases with no out after drawing three straight walks. Adena elected to make a pitching change, subbing in Long for starter Jarrett Garrison, and it worked like a charm.
“Jarrett kind of set him up,” Adena coach Tom Barr said. “It’s hard to hit Roman Long but it’s really hard to do it after facing Jarrett Garrison. It worked out well for us tonight.”
Long got the next three hitters to strikeout and fly out to right field twice, ending the scoring threat. He was rewarded in the bottom of the inning when his offense opened the floodgates.
“This has been our season. We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve played some very good teams and we haven’t been able to close the deal,” Rapp said. “We had the bases loaded tonight and weren’t able to capitalize.”
Adena’s Garrett Wilburn put the Warriors on top 3-2 with an RBI single before Lucas Foglesong lined a two-run single into right, extending the lead to 5-2. Garrison logged then logged an RBI, and the Senators committed an error in the field, letting two more runs score.
Before the Senators could blink a 2-2 game had turned into a six-run deficit.
In the top of the seventh, West scored three runs — keyed by a two-run single from Powell — but didn’t have enough gas in the tank to come all the way back.
West’s Cade McNeil took the loss, throwing three innings and giving up six earned runs. At the dish, Powell paced the Senators by going 2-for-4 with three RBIs while Howard and Arnett were each 2-for-3 with a run.
Kunkel finished the night 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, Foglesong was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored, and Long got the pitching win in his 3 ⅓ innings of work, surrendering two earned runs and striking out a pair.
The Warriors advance to play No. 3 seed Lynchburg-Clay, where they’ll travel for a Division III sectional championship at 11 a.m., Saturday.
“We’re not driving to Lynchburg-Clay to lose, right? We’re going to go and we’ll do whatever we need to do to win,” Barr said. “We feel like our coaching staff does a really good job here and our players react to what we’re teaching. We know how we need to prepare. We’ll be ready.”