Crusaders squeak by Calhoun County in sectional

Photo by Josh Hughes Parkersburg Catholic’s Bryce Moore digs in during an at-bat in the Crusaders’ 4-2 opening sectional tournament game win over Calhoun County Tuesday at Marshall Field.

DAVISVILLE –A three-run sixth and sharp pitching helped Parkersburg Catholic pull away from Calhoun County in a 4-2 thriller on Tuesday. The Class A Region IV, Section 1 win for the Crusaders (13-14) means they meet Williamstown tonight at 5 p.m., the loss for the Red Devils pits them on the road tonight against Wirt County.

Before those games take place, it’s important to take a look back at how these two teams got where they’re headed. In this drama-filled game, it was pitching that would both keep Calhoun County in the contest, and take them out of it.

The pitching duel at Marshall Field took place between PC’s Joel Stophel and Calhoun’s Mason Bennett. Both were rolling through the game, and Stophel’s ability to get out of jams in the third and fourth was a big reason why.

Following a Jaden Swearingen steal at home and back-to-back hits up the middle from Reagan Lynch and Gage Bunner, Stophel walked Bennett to load the bases full of Red Devils with two outs. With the 1-0 deficit about to become bigger, Levi Walker hit a grounder into the eager glove of Ty Sturm. Sturm threw onto first, as Calhoun only came away with one run in the frame.

The next inning saw Stophel faced with the same two-out, bases loaded scenario. This time, it was Lynch who grounded to Sturm. When he threw to second, the Crusaders escaped with no damage done.

Stophel’s performance prompted a positive review from skipper Tom Harvey.

“They (Stophel and reliever Steven Garvin) were pretty good,” he said. “They walked a few guys here and there, and they gave up ten or 11 hits, but (Stophel) got out of a few jams and made some good pitches for the most part.”

Bennett made it through 5 2/3 innings of work, and tough at-bats from the PC lineup caused his pitch count to creep up over the course of the evening. Nursing a 2-1 lead with one down, Bennett balked and sent Patrick Copen to third from second. Copen reached first via a throwing error from Luke Basnett and a stolen base. With the tying run 90 feet away, Bryce Moore sent him home on a deep sacrifice fly to left. Bennett continued to struggle in the fifth and loaded the bases, as he was pulled for Jordan Falls.

Falls walked in the runner at third that Bennett was responsible for, and that made the Red Devil starter the tough-luck loser.

One more run walked in at the hand of Gage Bunner, and the opportunity to steal a game on the road was missed from coach John Persinger’s Red Devils.

“We just couldn’t capitalize when we had bases loaded,” he said. “I think our baserunning and not being able to score with runners on was our biggest issue.”