By Brad Morris
ASHVILLE — Teays Valley coach Mark Colburn is a firm believer in the notion that baseball is one of the more humbling sports around.
That’s why he didn’t get upset on Wednesday when the Vikings were unable to secure the 21st out and allowed a two-run lead slip away in a 4-3 Mid-State League Buckeye Division loss to Hamilton Township.
“I didn’t unload on our guys or anything like that after the Hamilton Township game,” he said. “We’ve been in some tight games so far this season where we found a way to win, and Wednesday was a humbling experience when we didn’t close the door when we had an opportunity to do so.
“That’s baseball. I told our guys that now we know what can happen when we leave the door open and the next time a situation happens like that in a game then we will know how to react and to finish the game.”
Little did Colburn know when he made that statement, the Vikings would face a similar situation on Friday against the rival Circleville Tigers.
The Vikings held a 2-0 lead in the seventh, but the Tigers had the tying runs in scoring position with none out. Pitcher Matt Farmer and the defense responded by stranding the tying run at third base in securing a 2-1 league win.
“That was an oh crap moment, because we were right back in a similar situation for the second time in three days and, this time, our guys shut the door and finished the game,” Colburn said. “Our guys believed in Matt, believed in themselves and they secured a big win against a good Circleville team.”
Tate DeBord led off the seventh with a double to left and pinch-runner Keegan Piper was joined on the base pads by Austin Gray after a botched rundown between second and third on a fielder’s choice.
Farmer struck out the next batter swinging on three pitches and retired the next two Tigers on groundouts to shortstop Landon Vandegrift to end the game. Piper scored on the first groundout to short, but Gray was left stranded at third with what would have been the tying run.
“This team has a lot of heart, and we weren’t going to let something like what happened against Hamilton Township to happen again tonight,” Farmer said. “We believed in each other and we got the job done.”
The two Pickaway County rivals combined for just seven hits in a pitcher’s duel between Farmer and Circleville’s Logan Smith.
Teays Valley grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Hayden Wells lined a double to left, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jeremiah Fabbro and scored on a single to left off the bat of Vandegrift.
“Hayden had a nice hit to start the inning and then we got him over and in like we are supposed to do,” Colburn said. “With two good pitchers on the mound tonight, that was a big run. Logan pitched pretty well for Circleville, but he made a little bit of a mistake on that pitch with the infield in and Landon was able to take advantage of it.”
The Vikings added what turned out to be a vital insurance run in the fifth.
Ben France smacked a 2-0 offering to center for a double and advanced to third after Vandegrift was hit by a pitch and Ivan Smith walked. Landen McFarland then worked a four-pitch walk to force in France.
Farmer needed just 73 pitches, 55 of which were strikes, to throw a complete game. He allowed three hits, an unearned run, walked none and struck out 10.
“My changeup felt pretty good from the bullpen through the entire game, and I was able to use it pretty effectively,” Farmer said. “I was confident in challenging Circleville’s hitters and making good pitches, because of the defense I have behind me. I knew they had my back when I needed them.”
DeBord had two of Circleville’s three hits.
Colburn discussed his ace, who is a perfect 5-0 and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 25 and two-third innings of work.
“Matthew has been in command from the first game of the season against St. Charles,” he said. “If we didn’t have a delay in the St. Charles game, Matthew would already have four complete games this season.
“He was in the zone again tonight against Circleville and he had all of his pitches working. It was impressive to just watch him work and control the game.”
Both teams continue league play on Monday, as the Tigers (6-5, 2-2) host Hamilton Township and the Vikings (7-3, 4-1) travel to Liberty Union.
Teays Valley 2, Circleville 1
Circleville 000 000 1 — 1 3 0
Teays Valley 100 010 x —2 4 1
Logan Smith, Foster (6) and Gray; Farmer and McFarland