ST. CLAIRSVILLE - There's an old adage that it's hard to beat a team three times in a season. How about in a week? That possibility could arise Thursday when the OVAC Class 4A baseball tournament pairings are released.
For the second time in three days, Martins Ferry has had its way with St. Clairsville. Wednesday afternoon at chill-filled Memorial Park, the red-hot Purple Riders (10-6) got plenty of production from the bottom of their order, a clutch pitching effort and three defensive gems in rolling past St. Clairsville, 8-2.
Anthony Reasbeck's Purple Gang entered the game firmly entrenched in second-place behind Steubenville, while the Red Devils (6-5) were ahead of No. 4 Harrison Central, which dropped a 7-4 nod to Edison, also on Wednesday.
"Honestly. We're going to see these guys again Saturday," Reasbeck predicted. "I'll trade both of these wins (6-0 on Monday) for the one on Saturday. That's what's important right now. This (Wednesday's win) is an afterthought for us.
"To be playing at home Saturday is huge," Reasbeck said of the first home OVAC game in his tenure. "After we got beat 16-1 two weeks ago, I told the team that it was going to take eight wins to get in (the playoffs). We've won 10.
"I'll trade every win in my athletic career for a win Saturday."
Leading 1-0, Martins Ferry sent 11 batters to the plate in the top of the fifth, with five of them crossing the plate.
Ethan Baire reached on a fielder's choice and Marcus Sutton walked. Garrett Trudo's smash off the Red Devils' third baseman caromed into shallow left-center as Baire raced home and Sutton took third. A perfectly executed double steal made it 3-0 before Seth Scott launched a double to right that knocked in Trudo. Jeremy Plants banged an 0-2 pitch through the left side of the infield that skipped past the leftfielder, allowing a run to score as Plants scooted to third. T.J. Jacob's single down the third base line chased home Plants with the fifth run of the frame.
The Red Devils rallied in the bottom of the frame when Cody Goletz singled leading off. Ben Coleman drilled a double to deep left-center, but Goletz was gunned down trying for third on an outstanding relay from Plants-to-E. Baire-to Robert Vargo.
"That play looked like the way we practice it," he said of the 7-6-5 relay. "But there have been games that it looks like we haven't practiced. Today wasn't one of those."
The play turned out to be really big as the Red Devils rallied for two runs Ryan Busby's bad-hop single got one home and an error allowed the second to score.
It was all Dustin Schau from there. The senior struck out six and walked two. He allowed seven hits, but got a pair of key double-play grounders when he needed.
"When these guys throw strikes they're good. When they don't, they're bad," Reasbeck said of Schau and his staff. "I don't know what I'm going to get on a day-to-day basis, but I got a very good effort from Dustin today. His last two outings have been good.
"His fastball has some good velocity and his off-speed stuff keeps the hitters off balance."
One of those twin killings ending a golden scoring opportunity for the hosts, who had the bases loaded with no outs. After a strikeout, Schau got a hard shot to Brenden Baire at second, who flipped to his brother Ethan for the force. Ethan Baire's relay to first baseman Connor Coup was in time to beat the runner.
Sutton, Trudo, Scott and Plants - the 6-9 hitters - combined for eight of the Purple Rider's nine hits, and five of their eight runs batted in. Scott led the way with two singles, a double and two RBI. Sutton and Trudo evenly divided four base raps.
"That's a good thing in our lineup right now," Reasbeck said of the production from the No. 6 through 9 hitters. "I'm not sure there's a weakness in our lineup right now. I'm not sure there's been a weak spot for a week-and-a-half.
"Those guys have been hitting like crazy," Reasbeck said of the foursome. "The lineup seems to be flowing right now. We made a few tweaks in the lineup, and we've won six in a row. So, I'm not changing anything soon."
Martins Ferry leadoff hitter Brenden Baire had a pair of run-scoring sacrifice flies.
Veteran St. Clairsville head coach Tom Sliva was obviously upset with the way his team approached the game.
"We didn't come to the park ready to play. We've got to do a better job of that. There's a lot of season left. We've got two choices. One, we can try to turn it on, get excited and perform better, or two, we can continue doing what we're doing. If we do that, we're going to have a hard time succeeding."
Coleman singled and doubled for St. Clairsville. Brandon Carothers took the loss. Tyler Blomquist worked in relief. Linescore:
Martins Ferry 001 511 0 - 8 9 1
St. Clairsville 000 200 0 - 2 7 3
MF-Schau wp (6K, 2W) and Scott; B. Baire 2 SF, 2rbi; Jacob S, rbi; Sutton 2S, rbi; Trudo 2S, rbi; Scott 2S, D, 2rbi
STC-Carothers lp (2K, 3W), Blomquist (5), (1K, 3W) and Slavik; Coleman S, D; R. Busby S, rbi
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