Barnas hurls B/L to 6-2 win over St. Clairsville

For Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750, the third time was the charm against St. Clairsville pitcher Michael Jacob.

After being shut out by the left-hander twice over the past two seasons, Beverly/Lowell finally figured him out Thursday evening, winning a 6-2 decision in district tournament action at Don Schaly Stadium.

B/L (24-12) will match up with Cambridge today at noon in the winner’s bracket while St. Clairsville will play Zanesville at 3:30 p.m. in an elimination game.

Post 389/750 touched up Jacob early with a three spot in the first inning and later tacked on insurance runs against him in the fourth and sixth innings to build a 5-0 lead. Overall, Jacob surrendered five runs in seven innings, striking out four and walking seven against a patient Beverly/Lowell lineup. His defense didn’t help matters, committing three errors behind him.

“We knew what we were getting a hold of today as far as a quality arm on the mound,” said B/L skipper Todd Engle. “We were fortunate enough to get the three runs in the first inning there. The kids came out ready to jump on him and prove a point.”

On the other side, Ben Barnas was lights out for seven innings. He was pulled with two outs in the eighth after allowing two runs. He struck out two and walked two en route to earning the victory. B/L had just one error in the game.

“I was just throwing strikes and letting my field do a lot of work me,” Barnas said. “I was getting a little behind in the count earlier in the game but my field just fielded it up real good for me. We got the three-spot early in the game to kind of put that kid on the ropes a little so they had to come chase us.

“I just focused on throwing a lot of strikes once we got that lead and let the field do the work for me.”

“Ben pitched his guts out,” Engle added.

Jacob allowed a double to the first batter of the game, Jake Ullman, before Ethan Estes and Derek Layton both reached on bunts to load the bases. Lance Schafer then smacked an RBI-single to left field before Blake Kidder and Gunnar Smith produced back-to-back run-scoring groundouts to make it 3-0.

“That was the first time we’ve scored against (Jacob) in two years,” Engle said.

“(St. Clairsville) plays very disciplined, fundamental baseball so we knew we were gonna have to play that way. We came out ready to play that way. We bunted twice in the first inning. We wanted to make him work off the mound. The gameplan worked as far as that goes.”

Bryce Gandee led off the bottom of the fourth with a base on balls. He would then advance to second on a wild pitch before coming around to score on Ullman’s single to right to make the score 4-0.

Beverly/Lowell’s lead increased to 5-0 in the sixth thanks to wildness by Jacob. Kyler Dennis walked to lead off the inning and would end up at third after a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch. After Jacob walked Gandee to put runners on the corners with one out, Ullman punched a sac fly deep to left-center to plate Dennis.

St. Clairsville finally figured out Barnas in its fourth turn through the lineup. After Barnas got two quick outs in the eighth, he gave up his first run of the game when Tyler Ramsay doubled and then Dylan Curtin singled. With Curtin on second, Malik Gummer knocked him in with a single to left-center. Barnas was pulled after walking the next batter and relieved by lefty Justin Hill. Hill gave up an infield single but still got out of the jam on just four pitches.

B/L scored a run via a wild pitch by St. Clairsville reliever Nathan Steele in the bottom of the eighth before Hill slammed the door in the ninth to seal Beverly/Lowell’s spot in the winner’s bracket.

“We knew this was a big one,” Barnas said. “We had to come and get it.”

It was Beverly/Lowell’s 16th win in its last 17 games. The club will look to knock off defending district-champ Cambridge, which is riding a seven-game winning streak. The two teams split against each other in the regular season (2-2).