Prep baseball: Tigers edge Spartans

Marietta High pitcher Ben Barnas has seen many great baseball games pitched at Don Schaly Stadium as he has been attending Marietta College baseball contests since he was in little league.

Tuesday night, Barnas got his chance on the mound as the Tigers played a non- conference game against the Alexander Spartans at the home of the two-time defending national champion Etta Express, and the Tiger right-hander responded in a big way as he tossed a complete game four-hitter in a 3-2 MHS victory.

“My mom worked at Marietta College so I have been watching games here my entire life,” said Barnas, who allowed just one earned run in his seven innings of work. “It’s just an honor to get to pitch on this mound after so many great pitchers have pitched here before.”

Last year the Tigers were no-hit by Zanesville Blue Devil pitcher Austin Miller in their annual visit to the college diamond but left fielder Evan Sawyer made sure there would be no repeat performance this year as he doubled down the right field line to open the game.

Devin Leister moved Sawyer to third base with a sacrifice bunt and Barnas helped himself out with a run-scoring groundout to shortstop to give the orange and black a 1-0 lead.

Barnas got off to anything but a smooth start on the mound as he walked Alexander lead off hitter Dustin Mullins and then gave up a line drive single to right field to Spartan shortstop Brodie McGrath.

Tiger right fielder Nick Spurr appeared to lose the ball in the sun and when it skipped past him, Mullins raced in to score the tying run.

The Tiger relay throw to the plate in an attempt to get Mullins was off the mark and bounced away from Tiger catcher Joe Roberts, allowing McGrath to come all the way around to score himself and give Alexander a 2-1 lead.

Barnas and Spartan starting pitcher Kyle Holt both settled down after the first inning as each pitcher pitched three scoreless frames to send the Tigers to the fifth inning still trailing by a run.

Barnas got some help from his teammates in the third inning when with an Alexander runner on second base, Justin Shumate hit a sinking line drive that Tiger center fielder Nick Lewis made an outstanding diving catch on.

“Our outfield has been real strong for us all year and Nick made a great catch,” said Barnas of the run saving web gem.

Tiger co-head coach Larry Burke felt that Lewis’ catch as well as the Tigers’ defensive performance in general proved key in the Tigers win.

“After that one play in the first inning that allowed them to score the two runs our kids played very good defense,” said Burke. “Nick Lewis made a great catch that saved a huge run.”

The Spartans were actually the home team as the game was originally slated to be played in Alexander.

The Tigers tied things up in the top of the fifth when first baseman Austin Hefter led off with a triple off the chalk down the right field line and one out later Sawyer drilled a shot up the middle that bounced off the leg of Holt, allowing Hefter to score with the tying run.

The Tigers got a little help from the Spartan defense in the top of the sixth to regain the lead as Nick Spurr reached base on a two-out single, before scoring on back-to-back Alexander errors to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.

Barnas retired the Spartans in order in the last of the sixth and after allowing a lead-off single to left fielder Lukas Thompson, set down the final three Spartan hitters on infield ground outs in the final inning to secure the Tigers’ 10th win of the season.

“When Ben (Barnas) gets in a groove like he did tonight, he is an outstanding pitcher,” said Burke of his senior hurler. “When he is on, he is as good as anybody.”

Barnas struck out five and walked just one to gain the win, while Holt suffered the tough luck loss as he went the distance as well, allowing the two earned runs while fanning four Tiger hitters.

Alexander slipped to 10-7 on the season with the loss, while the Tigers clawed their way back to .500 at 10-10 with the win.

The win was the 401st of Coach Burke’s 26-year coaching career at MHS, leaving him just one win away from tying legendary Tiger coach Jim Jordan for the most wins in Marietta High School history.

“All of our seniors have been trying to go out with a bang this year and obviously it’s been big with Coach Burke closing in on Coach Jordan’s record,” said Barnas.

“We’ve just got to keep executing the little things. Hopefully we will respond again tomorrow.”

Burke and his Tigers will get the chance today to tie the record as they are scheduled to travel to Athens to take on the Bulldogs in another non-conference game.