By Jeff Eubanks
WATER VALLEY – The Water Valley Blue Devils baseball season got underway this past weekend with a doubleheader against the Senatobia Warriors. The Blue Devils were narrowly defeated the first game by a score of 5-4 and dropped the second game 9-2.
Junior Tank Hervey took the mound for the Blue Devils in the first game. Hervey had some control issues early on before finding his groove in the middle innings. Walks put Hervey in quite a few jams throughout the day.
The Warriors were able to send seven batters to the plate in the top half of the first inning, despite only getting one hit. After walking the bases full, Hervey settled down and struck out Senatobia’s Dallas McCrary for the final out of the inning, escaping the inning giving up only a run.
Jeremy Carlisle’s two out RBI single in the second gave the Warriors a 2-0 lead. With two on and two out Hervey was able to get a groundball to get out of the inning.
The Blue Devils offense finally showed signs of life in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, sophomore Josh Johnson singled to left field. Senior Josh Lowery followed with an RBI single to right field, as Johnson scored all the way from first. Lowery was thrown out trying to steal second base to end the inning, but the Blue Devils were able to cut the Warriors lead in half 2-1.
Carlisle was able to get another two out RBI single in the fourth inning after Hervey had walked two, making the score 3-1. Once again Hervey got out of a bases loaded jam with a strike out to end the inning.
Both pitchers seemed to find their rhythm in the fifth inning going three up and three down on both sides. Hervey was also able to go three up three down in the top of the sixth as well, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
Lowery was able to get another two-out hit in the bottom of the sixth with a double to left center, but the Blue Devils offense could not capitalize to drive him in.
Hervey struck out the first two batters of the seventh inning before giving up two singles and a walk. With the bases loaded once again, Hervey was able to make the pitch that he needed to get out of the inning by getting a lineout to freshman second basemen Drew Pratt.
With their final at bat the Blue Devils found themselves trailing by two runs. Hervey was able to get a one-out double to left to get things rolling. Freshman Shonquayle Jenkins singled to right. An errant throw by the shortstop allowed Hervey to score and Jenkins to advance to second base. Down by one run freshman Hunter Edwards was called on to pinch hit for sophomore Barrett Larson. Edwards came off the bench and delivered a single to right to tie the ball game up at 3-3. The Devils were unable to get Edwards in and were forced to play extra innings.
The Blue Devils defense had a total meltdown in the top of the eighth inning. The Warriors were able to score two runs off no hits, as the Devils defense committed three errors in the inning. The Blue Devils went into the bottom of the eighth down 5-3.
Johnson led off the bottom of the eighth and was able to get on thanks to an error by the Warriors first baseman. With one out, freshman Walt McCullough hit a RBI double to right field scoring Johnson. The Blue Devils were unable to get the tying run in from second base as the final two at bats ended in strike outs and the Devils lost 5-4.
Conard pitched a seven inning no decision. He walked six and struck out seven while giving up three runs, one of which was earned. McCullough took the loss on the hill for the Blue Devils, pitching 2/3 inning and giving up one unearned run.
Lowery went 2-4 at the plate with a double and a RBI single. Johnson was 1-2 with a single, scoring two runs and swiping one base. McCullough finished 1-4 with a RBI double and Edwards ended 1-1 with a RBI single.
“He (Senatobia’s pitcher Cody Richey) kept the ball down and worked the outer third. We refused to adjust. He’s (Richey) not going to change if he is getting us out,” said Doug Robbins, head coach of the Blue Devils baseball team.
“We just kept trying to pull the ball and refused to hit the ball the other way or back up the middle. We will certainly work to make improvements in that area”
The stagnant offense that the Blue Devils had shown early in the first game carried over into the second game of the doubleheader matchup. The Devils were blanked at the plate with only two hits and three walks the second time around against the Warriors pitching staff.
With two outs and bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning Shonquayle Jenkins drew a walk to score Josh Johnson from third, making the score 1-1.
The light showers that started in the top of the second seemed to foreshadow what was about to come for the Blue Devils defense. The Warriors were able to pour on four runs, capitalizing on three walks and several passed balls. Josh Lowery came into relieve Josh Johnson from the mound and was able to get out of a bases loaded jam by striking out a batter and getting the next to pop up to get out of the second inning down 5-1.
The Blue Devils could never get back on track after the second inning. They were only able to put three men on base after the first inning. For a team that is built to manufacture runs this is a major problem.
The Warriors were able to tack on four more runs throughout the ball game making the final score 9-2.
Lowery did a good job coming in on the mound. He threw for five and two-third innings – scattering seven hits, walking one and allowing two unearned runs. It was not a dominating performance, but he was able to get a lot of guys out by hitting his spots and selecting the right pitches. Johnson suffered the loss for the Blue Devils, pitching one and one-third innings – walking five and giving up five runs, one of which was earned.
The pitchers were the only two Blue Devils to record a hit. Lowery went 1-2 with a single while Johnson was 1-2 with a double and scored the only two Blue Devils runs.
“We didn’t do a whole lot to help ourselves offensively or defensively today, but the good thing about baseball is that you will be playing in another game before you know it,” Robbins said of the games.
“This one will be gone and hopefully we can learn from it and get a little better,” the coach continued.
As of presstime, next action for the Blue Devils baseball team will be at home against the North Pontotoc Vikings Tuesday, Feb 19 at 4:30 p.m. with varsity action only. The Blue Devils travel to Byhalia to take on the Indians Saturday, Feb. 23 in doubleheader action starting at noon with the next game to follow shortly after.
Please come out and show support for your Water Valley Blue Devils.