By Jeff Eubanks
The Water Valley Blue Devils (13-6 overall, 4-2 in division play) went 1-1 this past week in division play. The Blue Devils lost to division leading Ackerman 10-6, and picked up a win on the road over Eupora, 2-1.
Tuesday, March 25 at Water Valley
A five-run, third inning turned in by the Ackerman Indians proved to be the fatal blow to knockout the Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils took the lead in the bottom of the first 2-1 after starting the game with three straight hits, but could never get things back on track after the Indians moved out in front 7-2 in the top of the third inning.
Andrew Furr started the big inning for the Indians hitting a solo homerun off a hanging curve ball from Blue Devil pitcher Tank Hervey (5-2). The Indians scored four more runs in the inning off of Hervey on three hits and a couple of walks.
Blue Devils coach Doug Robbins saw a change in his team after the big inning put up by the Indians.
“They (Water Valley) came in deflated after that half. That’s baseball; we didn’t make a few plays and walked a guy or two and allowed them to have a big top of the third,” Robbins said.
“I could see it when they came in, it looked like somebody had punched them in the stomach. You can’t compete that way, actually that is not competing. You got to get in there and say now it’s our turn. We didn’t do that. We never really showed any life until they had a bad half and walked us a couple of times and allowed us emotionally and mentally to get back into it,” the coach continued.
The Blue Devils scratched for three runs in the fourth inning. Walt McCullough and Josh Lowery drew walks to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Chris Gaston connected with an RBI single to drive in McCullough and move Lowery to third. Justin Brooks reached off an error by Indians’ shortstop Will Upchurch, driving in Lowery, Gaston advanced to third due to an interference call and later scored off a passed-ball.
Brandon Brooks’ RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning drove in Shonquayle Jenkins who reached base by way of error. Jenkins would be the last Blue Devil to cross the plate.
The Blue Devils left six runners stranded on base for the night. Five of the six runners were left in scoring position, an all-to-often occurence.
Jenkins relieved Hervey on the mound in the top of the fourth and proved that he can be a trusted arm for Coach Robbins. The freshman scattered four hits over the next four innings, allowing three runs, two of which were earned. He finished with seven strikeouts and did not walk a batter. Jenkins kept the Indians’ hitters off balanced with a healthy dose of effective off-speed pitches, particularly with his change-up.
Hervey took the loss for the Devils. The righty pitched three innings, allowing eight hits and seven runs. Six of those runs were earned. He struck out seven, but showed some control issues by walking three and hitting a batter. After three innings his pitch count was at 87, averaging a very high 29 pitches-per-inning.
B. Brooks was the only Blue Devil with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and two RBIs. Josh Johnson was 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored. Pratt went 1-for-4 with an RBI single. Hervey was 1-for-4 with a single. Lowery and Gaston both were 1-for-3 with a single and each scored a run. Jenkins and McCullough each scored a run as well.
Friday, March 28 at Eupora
The Blue Devils notched their fourth division win with a victory over the Eupora Eagles.
Johnson picked up the win for the Blue Devils, pitching six innings while allowing four hits and one earned run. He finished with four strikeouts and three walks (two were hit-by-pitch).
Hervey relieved Johnson in the bottom of the seventh to pitch a 1-2-3 inning to record the save and preserve the win for the Blue Devils.
Pratt led the Blue Devils in hitting, going two-for-four at the plate with a pair of singles. Hervey went one-for -three with a double and a sacrifice fly RBI. Johnson and B. Brooks each had a hit, both connecting with singles and each scoring a run. B. Brooks was one-for-three with a single.
As of presstime, division action continues with the Blue Devils playing host to Hamilton and then traveling to Bruce. The Lions, who are number two in the division, come to town Tuesday, April 1 with varsity action starting at 4:30 p.m. and junior varsity to follow shortly after. The Blue Devils go to Bruce Friday, April 4 to makeup a rain-out game from Friday, February 29. Junior Varsity action will begin at 4:30 p.m. with varsity action to follow shortly after.
Saturday, April 5 will be a busy day for the Blue Devils as they host Horn Lake for varsity only action beginning at 11 a.m. and then travel to Grenada for a round of split squad action that is set to begin at 3 p.m. with the junior varsity taking the field first. Please come out and support you Water Valley Blue Devils as they continue on their march to the playoffs.