The Water Valley Blue Devils baseball season came to an end this past weekend after they dropped a best-of-three playoff series to Division-2A-District 1 East Union Urchins by the scores of 12-4 and 2-0.
Game 1 at Water Valley
The Urchins got on the board early with a three-run homerun hit by Zane Treadway off Blue Devil pitcher Brandon Brooks in the top of the first inning. The Urchins put three more runs up in the top of the second with RBI singles by Craig Bullock and Treadway.
Tank Hervey led off the bottom of the second for the Blue Devils (17-9) with a double down the left field line. Hervey advanced to third after Josh Lowery reached base by way of error and later scored off a passed ball during Shonquayle Jenkins at bat making the score 6-1.
Jenkins came into relief in the top of the third and got out of a bases loaded jam to hold the Urchins scoreless in the third.
The scoreless streak ended in the top of the fifth when Urchins’ batter Casey Hutchinson hit a solo homerun over the left field fence. The Urchins picked up another run in the inning off a bases loaded walk to Treadway , extending their lead to 8-1.
A two-out error allowed the Urchins to score two more runs in the top of the sixth inning. With the bases loaded, Urchins’ batter Dusty Andrews hit a pop-up directly into the sun and into the vicinity of Blue Devils shortstop Josh Johnson. Battling the sun, Johnson could not make the play as the ball dropped and the runs scored.
With one out, Drew Pratt hit an RBI single to left field to score Johnson from third in the bottom of the sixth. Johnson had reached base off a bunt-single and was moved to third when Brandon Brooks reached base by way of an error. The next batter, Hervey, reached base by way of hit-by-pitch. With bases loaded, Walt McCullough sent a pop up to Urchins’ shortstop Will Duggar to enforce the infield-fly rule to record the second out. After making the catch, Duggar caught Pratt stepping off of second base to turn the unconventional double play and kill any rally the Blue Devils hoped to achieve.
Duggar connected with a two-run single in the top of the seventh to push the Urchins out in front 12-2.
Back-to-back singles by Lowery and Jenkins opened up the bottom of the seventh. Justin Brooks reached base by way of hit-by-pitch to load the bases for Johnson. Johnson drew a walk to drive in Lowery for the Blue Devils third run. B. Brooks grounded out to Urchins’ pitcher Bullock to drive in the fourth and final run for the Blue Devils. Pratt flied out to the left field to end the rally and the game.
“Their pitchers did a really good job of keeping us off balance. They did a good job of locating. We didn’t do a good job at the plate in the first game and regardless of who was on the mound, you can’t do that in the playoffs,” Water Valley coach Doug Robbins said.
“We were able to scratch out some runs later in the game, but we never made (Urchins’ pitcher) Bullock work. He did a good job of changing speeds to keep us off balance,” Robbins said.
“We weren’t much disciplined as a team and that is disappointing because we worked on that all week. We helped (Bullock) be as good as he was,” Robbins added.
B. Brooks (2-1) took the loss for the Blue Devils, throwing 2.1 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits. He finished with two strikeouts to three walks and one hit batter. Jenkins pitched 4.2 innings in relief and gave up six runs on six hits. He finished with five strikeouts to five walks and two hit batters.
Johnson was 1-for-3 at the plate with a single and an RBI. Pratt finished 1-for-4 with an RBI single. Hervey went 1-for-2 with a double. Lowery and Jenkins both were 1-for-3 with singles each. B. Brooks had an RBI.
Game 2 at East Union
It was a battle of the aces when the Blue Devils’ Hervey and the Urchins’ Treadway went head-to-head on the mound at Blue Springs for complete-game performances. Both pitchers combined for a total of 27 strikeouts with Hervey coming out ahead with 14 K’s. Treadway came out ahead in the win column though as Hervey was unable to get any run support and suffered a 2-0 loss.
As they did in the previous game, the Urchins struck first with an RBI single by Zack Williams to score Dusty Andrews who had reached base by way of a walk earlier in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Hutchinson hit an RBI double to score Treadway in the bottom of the fourth inning for the Urchins second and final run of the game. Treadway reached base by way of a bunt single and made it to third off a couple of passed balls before Hutchinson drove him in.
The Blue Devils could not get anything going offensively off of Treadway. The Blue Devils managed to eek out two hits off the lefty with Drew Pratt going 1-for-3 with a single and J.D. Fondon going 1-for-1 with a single.
“Treadway was very good in the second game,” Robbins said. The head coach added that his team did a little better job with their effort.
“We battled and played defense, but weren’t able to do much on offense. But that’s what good pitching will keep you from doing. I thought Tank did a great job on the mound for us. He kept us in the game. He deserved to win as well, but we couldn’t get anything going on offense to help him. At the end of the day, we were beaten by a better team,” Robbins said
Hervey (6-4) threw all seven innings for the Blue Devils, giving up two runs on five hits while striking out 14 and walking three.
Although a first round exit from the playoffs is a downer, the Blue Devils have a lot to look forward to for next season. Seven of the nine starters will be returning next year as well as four of the top five Blue Devils’ pitchers.
“I started an eighth grader, three ninth graders, a 10th grader and two juniors and we’re not losing anything off the mound so there is a lot coming back and a lot to look forward to,” Robbins said.
“I told the team after the second game that I was very proud of them for the season they had. They came a long way as a group since Jan. 2. I thought this team did a lot of growing up during the year and did a better than a lot of people thought they would,” the coach added.